Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, address, Social Security Number, credit card or financial account numbers, passwords, and other personal information without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. While the words may sound like a foreign language -- Phishing, Pharming, Vishing, Spyware, Dumpster Diving — they are actually techniques used by thieves to put your identity and finances at risk. And their attacks grow more frequent and sophisticated every year. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States.
From credit card numbers and ATM PINs, to home addresses and more, every checkout can leave your personal information vulnerable. Follow these steps so you can shop smart and help keep your identity safe:
- Be aware of your surroundings and protect personal space at the ATM and registers.
- Do not leave backpacks, purses and wallets unattended in a cart or basket inside the store or while loading purchases into your car in the parking lot. Secure these items first.
- Inspect ATMs and points of sale terminals and look for tampering before swiping cards.
- Keep cards in sight when paying to deter dishonest cashiers.
- Store all receipts and closely check your monthly statements to verify transactions.
- Be sure your anti-virus software is installed properly and up-to-date.
- Install personal firewalls and password protection on your wireless connections at home.
- Shop with retailers you trust and who have positive Better Business Bureau ratings.
- Avoid links and only visit shopping sites by directly typing in their website address.
- Don't purchase items while using public computers or shared wireless networks.