Avoid identity theft with these steps

Posted September 27, 2012 at 11:16 am

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is a serious crime. It occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can cost you time and money.

“Identity theft can destroy your credit and ruin your good name,” said Nellie Lamers, family financial education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

It is important that consumers take identity theft seriously and do some things to detect, deter and defend against it.

“Consumers can detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring their financial accounts and billing statements. An individual can deter identity thieves by safeguarding their information,” said Lamers. “Consumers can also defend against ID theft as soon as they suspect it.”

Lamers also recommend the following simple steps to help protect you from ID theft:

*Check your bank/credit card statements monthly for possible errors/fraudulent charges, contact the company if you do not receive your statement.

*Don’t carry your Social Security card with you unless you need it.

*Keep your financial information in a safe location where others do not have access to it.

*Use strong, unique passwords for online accounts.

*Shred paperwork with personal information, including free credit card offers.

*If you find a problem, contact the company immediately to correct it, check your credit reports with Equifax, Experian and Trans Union and work with them to correct any misinformation.

Visit the Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Center at www.ftc.gov to find out more.

University of Missouri Extension programs focus on the high-priority needs of Missourians. Each county extension center, with oversight by locally elected and appointed citizens, is your local link to practical education on almost anything.