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How to Avoid Being a Victim of Identity Theft, Online Fraud

Identity theft and online fraud are two of the fastest-growing crimes in the nation. These crimes can rob you of your money, time, and peace of mind.

Typically, these crimes happen on the Internet where a criminal steals an individual's personal information like his Social Security Number or password, and uses these to commit fraud and other crimes.

These crimes are particularly harmful as the crime can be ongoing and happen over a long period of time before you actually become aware. In addition, identity thieves and online frauds may access all of your personal information, giving them the potential to wipe you out.

The best way to fight identity theft is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Keep the following three tips in mind on how to avoid being a victim of identity theft or online fraud.

1. Keep your personal records safe. While identity theft and fraud generally happen online, you may also be robbed of your identity offline. Prior to the Internet, many criminals would dumpster dive and look for your sensitive information in the garbage. This still happens. So keep your personal information secure in your home such as in a safe or locked drawer. If you must dispose of such information, you should shred it first.

2. Use a password that is unique. "Password" and "MyPassword1234" are easy to remember, but hardly unique. Other passwords to avoid are pet's names, phone numbers, birthdays, and anything else easily guessed. Also, you should avoid using the same password for all your accounts. This way, if one password is compromised, some of your accounts will be unaffected.

3. Don't give out personal information over the phone. There are many scammers that are attempting to use telephone calls to get personal information. These phone calls will often sound official, such as a department store’s credit department calling in order to get payment. Typically, legitimate businesses will not require anything too personal over the phone.

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