Here is a good artice for identity theft.
Preventing an identity crisis
Identity theft is rapidly increasing in the United States. Since the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Data Clearing House began collecting identity theft reports in 2000, the number of reports has increased over 420 percent. In 2003, the ftc received more than a half a million compaints, and identity-theft reports topped the list.
Many law enforcement officials believe that due to the clandestine nature of this crime, most people are at risk of becoming a victim without even knowing it. That was my situation. The perpetrator who stole my identity did it in such a way that I could not have protected myself. There are, however, some precautions you can take to minimize your chances of becoming a target.
1) Guard your digits. Never give out your Social Security number (SSN) unless it's absolutely necessaryŚlike on a job or credit application. Many institutions request your SSN for identification purposes. But it's often not required. Refuse to give it out and offer other kinds of identifiers instead. In addition, be equally careful about giving out your credit card and driver's license numbers.
2) Ask questions. Before giving out any personal information, find out how it will be used and if it will be shared with others. Be especially careful about giving out your mother's maiden name, as that information is used by banks and financial institutions to verify who you are, and it could give potential perpetrators an opening for accessing your accounts.
3) Review your accounts. Carefully check credit card and bank account statements, and dispute any strange or unauthorized purchases immediately.
4) Check your credit. Order a copy of your credit report from the three major credit-reporting agencies every year. Make sure the information in them is accurate and includes only those activities you've authorized. (See the names and phone numbers of the three major credit-reporting agencies in the box below.)
5) Buyer beware. Be very careful when ordering merchandise over the Internet. Only order online from reputable companies that use secure servers.
6) Keep hackers out. If you have a DSL or cable connection that allows you to maintain a constant link to the Internet, consider installing a firewall on your PC. This will prevent hackers from getting into your computer and retrieving any confidential information that you may have stored there.
7) Report suspicious activity. Go to the FTC's identity theft website (www.consumer.gov/idtheft/
) to get more information and to fill out a copy of their ID Theft Affidavit to report any unauthorized accounts that are opened in your name.
Your diligence in these matters will help diminish the amount of liability and damage you will incur should you become a victim of identity theft. If you do find that you've been victimized, contact your bank, credit card companies, the Social Security Administration (1-800-772-1213), and the FTC right away to report the crime and obtain further information.
Until there are better safeguards in place to keep personal information out of the hands of thieves, we all need to be on our guard. Remember, it can happen to anyone.
Major Credit Reporting Agencies