University of Illinois Extension

Protect Your Credit Information

Credit cards are more convenient than cash. Most of us couldn't function without our credit cards. As consumers, we should take precautions to prevent identity theft. Credit fraud is big business. The Federal Trade Commission estimates as many as nine million Americans have their identity stolen each year.

Identity theft fraud occurs when someone uses your personal identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. For identity thieves, this information is as good as gold. Most fraud happens within 48 hours of the card being stolen. The credit card information is important as well as the expiration date. Armed with your credit card information, thieves can run up bills and ruin your credit rating. The thief can assume your credit identity and cause problems for you.

How Can Credit Fraud Happen?

  1. Old-Fashioned Stealing - Someone steals your wallet, outgoing mail or just-delivered mail from your unprotected mail box (including bank and credit card statements), pre-approved credit offers, and new checks or tax information. They steal personal records and bribe employees who have access.
  2. Phishing - You receive an e-mail message trying to get you to reveal personal information about your financial institution, credit card accounts, telephone companies, etc.
  3. Dumpster Diving - Someone goes through your garbage and finds old billing statements, credit card receipts, printed credit card access checks, and offers for new, pre-approved credit cards.
  4. Skimming - They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your cards.
  5. Changing Your Address - They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
  6. Pretexting - A fraudulent telemarketer calls you and asks for information from your credit card. They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, savings and investments, and other sources, as well.
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