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Four Tips To Help Avoid Identity Theft

Identity theft is a continually growing problem in America. When another individual uses your name and Social Security number to apply for new credit or loans, the lender holds you responsible for the bills when they come due. Although you aren't legally responsible for paying debts incurred in your name without your knowledge, convincing lenders of this fact is often a tricky task. Some consumers spend years trying to clean up the mess identity theft makes of their lives and their credit reports. The best cure for identity theft is always prevention.

Shred It

Shred documents containing your personal information before throwing them away. Identity thieves may go through your trash to get their hands on sensitive personal documents such as old bank statements and credit card bills. Your financial paperwork often contains your name and Social Security number--and that's all the information an identity thief needs to get started.

Check your credit reports

Monitor your credit reports for new credit inquiries. Whenever you apply for new credit--or an identity thief applies for credit in your name, a lender will pull your credit records to determine if you qualify. This leaves a credit inquiry on your credit report. You can pull your credit reports and review them periodically for new credit inquiries. Should you discover inquiries you don't recognize, immediately contact the lender about the inquiry. If someone else uses your identity, you can prevent credit damage by catching the theft quickly and informing the lender.

Take it to the post office

Take your bill payments to the post office rather than dropping them into the mailbox. It may seem so easy to simply drop the mail in the mailbox on your way to work. The same flag that notifies the mail carrier that there's new mail to be picked up, however, also notifies potential identity thieves. It's too easy for a thief to simply walk up to your mailbox, pick up your credit card payment, and walk away. Your outbound mail is much safer being dropped off at the post office.

Keep an eye on your credit card

Never let your credit card out of your sight. Keeping close tabs on your credit card seems simple enough until you use it to pay for a meal at a restaurant. Waiters and waitresses carry your credit card away to process it and put you at risk of skimming. Skimming is a practice in which thieves use electronic devices to steal information from consumers' credit cards. It's okay to use your credit card, but letting someone else walk away with it may place you at risk.

A thief that gets his hands on your personal information can do more than just spend your money. He may apply for identification in your name. Should the individual then commit a crime, you could end up with a warrant out for your arrest that you aren't even aware of. Knowing how identity theft works and how to avoid it can protect you from becoming a victim.