What is rampant, spreading like wildfire and can kill life as you know it? No, not a deadly virus (but close). Answer: Identity theft. My stepson, Aaron, was a victim of identity theft recently. Someone stole his bank cards, deposited fake checks into his account, then withdrew cash. The deposited fraudulent checks and overdraft charges hurt his credit, and he’s slowly recovering and rebuilding his score.

Tips to avoid identity theft:

  1. Buy a shredder. Aggressively protect your social security, credit card or bank numbers.
  2. Use a lock-in mailbox. This isn’t 100% safe, but it’s much safer than one without a lock.
  3. Protect your out-going mail. Get it into the box or the hands of a postal clerk. Heavily trafficked offices often have out-going mail in the entryway. While this may save time, it’s not safe.
  4. Keep receipts and compare to your statements when they come once a month. Banks make mistakes all the time.
  5. Keep financial documents under lock and key (at the bank or in a home safe).
  6. Don’t give out your social security card—ever.
  7. Know what’s in your wallet. Do you know how many credit cards are in your wallet?
  8. Don’t discuss detailed financial information on a cordless or cell phone. That information can be intercepted.
  9. Monitor your credit reports. You can sign up for a monitoring service or do it yourself periodically. Your credit is one of your assets, so protect it.

If someone steals your credit card information, get help from these reputable resources—
Federal Trade Commission 877-382-4357
Identity Theft Resource Center at 858-693-7935
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse 619-298-3396

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