How can you tell if you are a victim of identity theft?
U.S. Attorney James Comey, who announced charges Monday in New York in what could be the largest case of identity theft in the nation's history, said there are signs to watch for.
If bank statements and credit card statements aren't showing up, Comey said, that could mean someone has stolen your identity. He warned consumers to watch their bank accounts closely, check their credit reports regularly and guard their personal information.
Victims usually are not liable for fraudulent charges, but it can take time and money to undo damage.
Mary Ann Avnet, vice president of Chubb Group of Insurers in Warren, N.J., suggested consumers order credit reports at least twice a year, more often if they have been victimized by identity fraud.
Avnet also said people can require the use of identification whenever their credit cards are used. She cautioned consumers not to throw away items containing such personal information such as Social Security, driver's license and credit card numbers.
"Be as careful with that information as you can. When choosing PIN numbers and ID numbers, make sure they are not easily replicated," she said.
The need for vigilance was illustrated Monday as prosecutors said a dishonest computer software company worker opened the gates to the identities of more than 30,000 individuals nationwide. Some victims may not yet know they have been defrauded.
Comey suggested consumers study how to protect themselves on the Federal Trade Commission's Web site at or by calling the toll-free phone number at 877-IDTHEFT.
On the Net:
FTC identity theft site: http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft
Social Security identity theft site: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/idtheft.htm
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: http://www.privacyrights.org
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