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Could You be the Victim of Identity Theft?

The holiday season in San Diego has many people going to the local malls and retail stores. Identity theft is on the rise and occurs more frequently over the holidays. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, social security number or other personal information to commit fraud. It is estimated by the Federal Trade Commission that as many as 9 million Americans have their identity stolen each year. The San Diego based Identity Theft Resource Center estimates 15 million Americans have their identity stolen each year and California is one of the top states for identity theft. Identity theft is committed in a variety of ways such as stealing your purse or wallet, going through your trash, phishing, skimming, or using false pretenses to obtain your personal information.

Here are some signs that you might be at risk to have your identity stolen:

1. You carry your social security card in your purse or wallet.
2. You carry all your credit cards in your purse or wallet, even ones you don’t regularly use.
3. You throw away banking statements, credit card statements, or offers for credit cards without shredding them.
4. You have your social security number written down in your checkbook or it is on a health care insurance card you carry with you.
5. If people ask you for your social security number, you always provide it without protest or inquiry.
6. You have an unlocked unsecure mailbox.
7. You give out personal information over the phone.
8. You haven’t reviewed your credit report recently.

Identity theft can cost you time and money and destroy your credit. If your will or trust or other estate planning documents are easily accessible to strangers, you also may be vulnerable as they often contain social security numbers, bank account information, etc. You may want to invest in a shredder to destroy personal information. Also consider buying a safe or locked box to keep your important documents in, however make sure your loved ones know where the key is so that they can easily access powers of attorneys if you become incapacitated.

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