10 Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft

Understand Fraud Policies
Make sure you’ve got a thorough understanding of what you are and aren’t responsible for in the event of fraudulent use of your accounts. ©iStock/Thinkstock

If tomorrow someone were to steal and use your social security number, would you know who to contact for help? What about if they stole your credit card information? For example, the Social Security Administration can't help you settle disputes. And just because your bank doesn't hold you responsible for credit card fraud, that doesn't mean it's still not a great big headache -- fraud will impact your credit report, which can quickly snowball. You may need a new social security number, to clear your name of fraudulent debt with debt collector or even, in more extreme cases, clear your name of criminal charges.

If you suspect -- or know -- that you're a victim of identity theft, immediately place fraud alerts on your credit report (the initial alert is three months, but can be extended to seven years with a copy of your identity theft report), and then request a copy of your credit report to review and report suspicious activity. Report an identity theft complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (this is where you'll get that identity theft report), and to your local police department. And document everything along the way.