Help Protect Yourself from Identity Theft by Protecting Your Personal Information

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Much of identity protection revolves around safeguarding your personal information. However, your personal information is necessary to conduct important financial transactions—to get a new credit card, auto loan, life insurance policy, apartment, mortgage, or job—so it has become more easily available to a large number of people and organizations. Unfortunately, this puts you at greater risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.

You might be shocked by how much of your information is on file at the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state or the Social Security Administration, for example. More information, like your buying habits, income bracket, and education level, is also hiding on marketing lists that record your consumer profile.

As new methods are developed for collecting, storing, and sharing your information, there are more ways your identity can be compromised.

Although recent legislation has been passed to protect consumers' personal information from getting into the hands of illicit outside parties, you still need to be aware of where your personal information could be going. Understanding where your personal information is being shared can help you protect against identity theft.

Who is collecting my personal information?

Websites
When browsing on a website, information can be collected from personal details you enter on the site or from cookies that track your Internet history.

Marketers
Targeted marketing lists are created so marketers can easily reach consumers within specific demographic groups. If you search "marketing lists" on the Internet, you will see the immense number of marketing lists available for purchase.

Store clerks
If you are asked for your ZIP code, phone number, or email address when making a purchase, it means that the store is creating a profile of your buying habits to be used for targeted marketing. The information provided to one store can even be sold to other parties.

Grocery store loyalty cards
Your favorite grocery store discount card doesn't just give you deals. It also helps track your shopping patterns for store owners and marketers. This has led to a debate about whether loyalty cards violate privacy rights.

Warranty cards
Marketers can also access information collected from your warranty cards.

New identification systems
A number of institutions, including airlines, have been developing plans for high-tech identification systems that confirm an individual's identity through background checks, fingerprints, and iris scans.

How can I help protect my identity?

Marketers often try to gather personal information about you to resell to companies who want to target people like you. You won't always be able to avoid sharing personal information, but it's important to know when it's unnecessary. You can usually sign up for email coupons or loyalty programs without sharing your full address or any financial information.

The next time you sign up for a catalogue or add your name to the mailing list, consider if the benefit is worth sharing your personal information with someone who could potentially sell it.

Keeping a close tab on your financial accounts and credit report is usually a great way to spot if your personal information has been compromised.

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