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Identity theft is one of the worst things that can happen to people, because of the potential damage it can do to a persons financial stability and the amount of unavoidable risk that does exist when consumers make event simple credit transactions. Identity theft is when someone steals another person’s identity, specifically their name and social security number to access their financial holdings. They can use the information to apply for credit cards and make large purchases, without accumulating any debt in their name or making payments on purchased goods. Identify theft can completely ruin a person’s credit rating and plunge them into dept that is beyond repair. The long term affects are just as devastating, credit counseling is available to people who have been victims of identity theft, but creditors may still hold the account holder responsible for charges, or at a minimum, change them for extra coverage. It can take years for people to recover financially after their identity is stolen.

In order to lower your risk for identity theft, be very careful with your social security number. Every person born in the United States is assigned a social security number at birth and that number identifies them to the government and is a snapshot of your financial history and your history as a taxpayer. Things like credit ratings are tied into that number. If someone gets a hold of that number, it’s easy to use it to use it to get a credit card, charge it up, and then leave the victim to pay the debt. To avoid this, always shred personal documents that contain their social security number or account information.

Anything that has sensitive information, like your social security number, needs to be secured and protected from theft. Be careful on the web and don’t submit things personal information like your full name, address, and birthday on social networking sites. Be careful to make sure that if you are submitting sensitive information to a website, that site is trusted and security measures are taken by the site to make sure any personal information is kept private. Watch out for scams that are designed to get information like your social security number or other information from you, scams are not always apparent and consumers should be cautious at all times. Do not ever allow a public computer to remember any of your passwords, this is an easy mistake to make, but can put consumers at an elevated risk for identity theft. It’s also very important to watch your bank and credit card statements every month, so you are immediately aware of any odd purchases or changes, keeping an updated check book with a record of purchases can be a great asset when detecting identity theft. If your cards are stolen, immediately report them so you can get a jump on the problem. And what are you supposed to do if your identity is stolen?

Make sure to place all the proper fraud reports so that someone can begin trying to help you. Make sure that you contact all the proper authorities as well so that they can help you get things sorted. You have to contact the Federal Trade Commission first, because they are the ones with the most experience in handling identity theft and can provide detailed advice on how to handle the negative effects of identity theft. You should also consider hiring an agency that specializes in helping those who are victims of identity theft. Often, they can help resolve issues much more quickly. You should also immediately close all accounts associated with the stolen information, whether it’s a credit card or bank account, to minimize damages. Having your identity stolen can be very damaging to your life. However, it is possible to repair the damage done as long as you get on the problem quickly and aggressively. Identity theft is not the end of the world and it can be avoided if you’re careful enough.