Identity theft is a crime whereby someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. With enough identifying information about an individual, a criminal can take over that individual's identity to conduct crimes such as false applications for loans and credit cards and fraudulent withdrawals from accounts. The victim may not become aware of what has happened until the criminal has caused substantial damage.
To reduce or minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft, here are some basic steps you can take:
- Be cautious about giving out your personal information to others unless you have a reason to trust them, regardless of where you are.
- Check your financial information regularly and look for what should be there and what should not. Maintain careful records of financial accounts.
- Ask periodically for a copy of your credit report from one of the three agencies.
- Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Only give your Social Security number when it’s absolutely necessary.
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