13 NEWS AT 4 -- One of the most insidious crimes in today's information age is identity theft. More and more Americans are falling victim to the illegal use of their personal information for purposes of fraud. The crime centers on the theft of credit card, Social Security or passport numbers to gain access to money using the victims' identities.
A very common case involves the theft of a person's Social Security number to obtain credit in that person's name. Some perpetrators have even gone so far as to file for bankruptcy in the name of the unassuming victim! Others are able to abscond with money through illicit means by obtaining an person's drivers license or bank account number. Those losses can add up quickly and the impact on the victim's financial history can be damaging.
Jim Hanna of Ameriprise Financial spelled out the 'SCAM' you need to fight back against identity theft:
Be STINGY about giving out your personal information.
CHECK all your accounts regularly to make sureno unexpected transactions have occurred.
ASK for your credit reports periodically.
MAINTAIN careful records of all bank and financial transactions.
The risk of suffering a loss due to identity theft can be reduced if you limit how many people and institutions have access to your information. Be skeptical of any phone call or e-mail from anyone claiming to represent a banking or financial institution, or asks for password information or account numbers.
If your identity has been stolen, the Federal Trade Commission recommends you place a fraud alert on your credit reports; contact one of the three credit reporting agencies to inform them of the fraud.
Close any account that was tampered with, or opened fraudulently.
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
File a report with your local police or sheriff's department; local officers can conduct a legal investigation which could help you get your identity back.