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By Times Staff Writer
Published November 4, 2007
Identity theft is a serious crime. So far this year, there have been 12-million victims in the nation, with billions in losses, said Bill McCollum, state attorney general.
Identity theft occurs when personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Thieves use a variety of methods to destroy your credit. Here are a few examples of how they work:
Dumpster diving: They rummage through trash looking for bills or other documents with personal information. Avoid this by shredding paperwork containing personal information before discarding it.
Skimming: Crooks use a special storage device to steal credit or debit card numbers when processing your card at a retail store or restaurant. Try to keep your card in sight when using it to pay for items or services, especially when traveling out of town.
Phishing: Some criminals send out e-mails, pretending to be a financial institution or legitimate company, in order to get you to reveal your personal information. Avoid responding to unsolicited e-mails.
Old fashioned stealing: Sometimes our personal records are stolen from legitimate companies that keep our information on file. This happened to me last week, forcing me to close an account to avoid bogus charges.
The best way to fight identity theft is to prevent it. So it is important to check your credit report often and place a fraud alert if you suspect a problem. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com (or call 1-877-322-8228), a service created by the major nationwide consumer-reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
William Proffitt, St. Petersburg police spokesman
[Last modified November 3, 2007, 21:44:12]