Identity theft is a serious crime that cost American consumers billions of dollars and countless hours each year. It occures when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.
Skilled identity thieves use a variety of methods to steal your personal information, including:
(1) They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
(2) They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
(3) They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
(4) They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a "change of address" form.
(5) They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information.
While you can't entirely control whether you will become a victim, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, encourages consumers to Deter, Detect and Defend to help cut down on identity theft.