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Guarding Your Privacy
- Tips to Prevent Identity Theft

Introduction

On any given day, you may find yourself using your credit card online to purchase a gift, applying by phone for a new credit card with your favorite merchant, or writing a check at your local convenience store. You may be unaware that in each instance you are revealing personal and unique information about yourself, such as your banking information, credit card number, and Social Security number (SSN), along with your name, birth date, address, phone number, and other contact information that uniquely identifies you. This information is a gold mine for identity thieves to use to commit fraud or theft without your knowledge. It has been estimated that four out of five victims of identity theft had no idea how an identity thief obtained their personal information.

According to one study, 15.4 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2017 with an estimated loss of over $16 billion. Further, more than half of all adults in America were notified that their personal information had been breached in 2017—nearly five times the number who had their information exposed just four years earlier. Identity theft is spurred on by lenders and creditors willing to grant thousands of dollars in credit in mere minutes with little or no proof of identity. In today’s information age, an identity thief can easily, and sometimes legally, tap into your information with just the click of a button. Thieves may also swipe the contents of your mailbox or even rummage through your trash searching for account statements, pre-approved credit card offers, or credit receipts. Armed with this information, a thief can pose as you to acquire a credit card, or siphon money from your personal savings and checking accounts.

Identity theft may take months for you to detect and sometimes years or longer to unravel. This handbook provides important information on how to protect your privacy, safeguard your personal data, and avoid identity fraud.