With 12.6 million victims of identity fraud in the United States in 2012, which equates to one victim every three seconds, the Michigan State Police (MSP) is seeking to educate the public about the simple precautions you can take to keep your identity safe.

Identity theft is when someone uses your identifying information such as name, date of birth, social security number, credit card number, etc. to obtain goods, services, credit, or open fraudulent bank accounts.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 85 percent of identity theft incidents in 2012 involved the fraudulent use of existing account information, such as credit card or bank account information.

“Awareness and education are the first steps in preventing identity theft,” said Trooper Cecil Vashaw from the MSP Wayland Post.  “By safeguarding your personal information, you can reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft.”

Here are some tips that can help to keep your identity safe:

  • Never give out identifying information in response to unsolicited offers by phone, mail, Internet or in-person.
  • Order and review your credit report yearly to check for unauthorized activity. You are entitled to one free credit disclosure in a 12-month period. To request a free credit report, visit Central Source at www.annualcreditreport.com or call toll-free (877) 322-8228.
  • Review financial and credit card statements monthly for unauthorized charges.
  • Cross shred documents (i.e. receipts, insurance forms, bank and credit card statements, cash advance checks, etc.) containing personal identifiers before discarding.
  • Remove mail from the mailbox as soon as possible. Place your mail delivery on hold at the post office while out of town.
  • Be aware of where your personal identification is kept at work and at home, and know who has access to it.
  • Protect your wallet and/or purse – never leave them unattended. Limit the number of credit cards you carry and don’t carry your PIN or social security card in your wallet and/or purse.
  • Treat checkbooks, ATM cards, credit cards and credit card offers as cash. Cancel unneeded credit cards.
  • Don’t put your social security number, phone number or date of birth on your checks.
  • When using the Internet to make purchases, look for the “s” in the address (https) to ensure it is a secure site.

For more information about how to prevent identity theft and what steps to take if you are a victim, visit www.michigan.gov/identity-theft.

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