Protect Your Information.
Identity Theft is when someone steals your personal information and uses it to open accounts and make unauthorized transactions in your name. According to the Federal Trade Commission, it's one of the fastest growing crimes in the world today.
How They Do It
The best way to take on these criminals is to become familiar with the tricks of their trade.
Phishing and Spoofs
Emails claiming to be from well-known companies will direct you to "spoof" or fake websites and request your personal information. Learn more about phishing and how to resist taking the bait.
Some criminals will even scavenge through your garbage cans, looking for bank statements or credit card numbers. The simplest way to stay safe is to cut up your cards and shred your documents before throwing them away.
Electronic Bank Statements
Criminals will look through your postal service mailbox if it is unattended. This is much cleaner and faster than looking through your trash. If your postal service mailbox is not secure consider receiving only electronic bank and CC statements.
Always pay attention to your surroundings when doing financial transactions in public. Carefully shield the keypad when punching in your code at ATMs, and be careful when discussing financial information in public.
How to Help Prevent Identity Theft
1. Safeguard your information, both online and offline
Don’t Reuse passwords - Using strong unique passwords for each important account is the simplest and most powerful deterrent to identity theft. Mix upper and lowercase letters with symbols, and create unique passwords for each of your accounts.
Shred important documents – A recent study suggests that identity thieves rummaging through your trash or breaking into your mailbox may pose an even greater threat than online theft.
Carry only what you need – It's been estimated that 14% of all identity theft results from stolen wallets, checkbooks, and credit cards. That's a pretty good reason to leave your social security card and seldom-used credit cards at home in a safe place.
2. Use secure methods of payment whenever possible
Bad checks – When handled with care, checks can be perfectly safe. However, it's worth keeping in mind that when you hand a stranger a check, you're also giving them your bank name, account number, address, and signature.
Online payments are safer – When using online payment systems like PayPal, your transaction is as secure as it can be. Another important benefit is that the merchant you're buying from will never see your credit card or bank account numbers.
3. Logout when you are done
When you are done in your PayPal account, you should logout. There is a logout link at the top of every page.
If you don’t explicitly logout, you will be automatically logged after in 10~15 minutes of no activity. If you are on a shared or public computer, this could allow someone to access your account after you walk away from the system.
4. Keep your computer protected
Keep your computer and mobile devices protected – See System Security for more suggestions
5. Always be vigilant
Report any suspicious activity immediately – Immediately report anything to PayPal that is out of the ordinary-from phishing to fake websites to unauthorized account activity. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you're less likely to be seriously impacted by identity theft if you discover and report the incident within six months of its occurrence.
Monitor your accounts frequently – Log in to your PayPal account and check your credit card and bank accounts on a regular basis to look for unfamiliar transactions. That way you'll know if something's going on before it's too late.