By James Limbach
— Every day you share personal information about yourself with others. It’s so routine that you may not even realize you’re doing it. You may write a check at the grocery store, charge tickets to a ball game, rent a car, mail your tax returns, buy a gift online, call home on your cell phone, schedule a doctor’s appointment or apply for a credit card.
Each transaction requires you to share personal information: your bank and credit card account numbers; your income; your Social Security number (SSN); or your name, address, and phone numbers.
It’s important to find out what happens to the personal information you and your children provide to companies, marketers, and government agencies. These organizations may use your information simply to process your order; to tell you about products, services, or promotions; or to share with others.
And then there are unscrupulous individuals, like identity thieves, who want your information to commit fraud. Identity theft -- the fastest-growing white-collar crime in America -- occurs when someone steals your personal identifying information, like your SSN, birth date, or mother’s maiden name, to open new charge accounts, order merchandise, or borrow money.
Consumers targeted by identity thieves usually don’t know they’ve been victimized. But when the fraudsters fail to pay the bills or repay the loans, collection agencies begin pursuing the consumers to cover debts they didn’t even know they had.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) encourages you to make sure your transactions -- online and off -- are secure and your personal information is protected. The FTC offers these tips to help you manage your personal information wisely, and to help minimize its misuse:
To order your free annual report from one or all national consumer reporting companies, visit www.annualcreditreport.com, call toll-free 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.