Identity theft is a serious crime and a frightening reality that affects many Americans each year. Living in the digital age has opened more doors and opportunities for criminals to steal your identity. Taking the following precautions, provided by the LA County Sheriff's Department, can help you to protect yourself from identity theft.
1. Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personal identifying information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information.
2. Check your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year.
3. Open your credit card bills and bank statements right away. Review your statements and close unused accounts. Be aware if bills don’t arrive on time. It may mean that someone has changed contact information to hide fraudulent charges.
Don't miss a thing. Get breaking news alerts delivered to your inbox. 
4. Don’t carry your Social Security card or PIN numbers in your purse or wallet because of what can happen if they fall into the wrong hands.
5. Avoid giving any personal information over the phone, mail, or Internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Give it to them in person instead.
6. Criminals pretend they are collecting money for victims of a natural disaster. Sometimes they claim to be police officers and ask for donations.
7. Elderly people are frequently targeted in money scams. Keep a helpful eye for elderly family members and vulnerable neighbors.
8. Make sure that you disconnect your laptop from a broadband or a shared connection when you are not using it.
9. Avoid offers and pop-ups that sound too good to be true. They want you to enter your information so they can access all of your personal information.
10. Remove your name from mailing lists for pre-approved credit offers. Pre-approved credit card offers are a target for identity thieves who steal your mail. Have your name removed from credit
bureau marketing lists. Call toll-free 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
11. Only enter personal information on secure Web pages that encrypt your data in transit. You can often tell if a page is secure if "https" is in URL or if there is a padlock icon on the browser window.
12. If you’re going to use a mail box, do so during or close to the posted pick up hours. Better yet, drop your mail off at your local post office. Retrieve mail promptly and discontinue delivery while out of town.
Identity thieves may use a variety of methods to gain access to your information, including;
- Skimming-thieves steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device attached to ATM machines. The device reads the magnetic strip on your card which thieves use to commit fraud.
- Phishing-by pretending to be financial institutions or companies, thieves can send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information. Be sure your firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software is up to date. Use identity theft protection. Never click on links in pop-up windows or in spam e-mail.
- Changing Your Address-thieves divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
- Old-Fashioned Stealing-wallets and purses, mail, bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks, tax information, personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.
- Pretexting-thieves use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.
- Fishing-thieves use string to lower pieces of cardboard covered with glue down blue mail boxes and open envelopes that stick looking for personal information they can steal.
- Dumpster Diving-thieves will go through your trash looking for bills, credit cards and other nformation. Shred anything containing your personal information including credit card offers and “convenience checks” that you don’t use.
- Information retrieval-thieves desire your hard drive with personal information on it. Have your hard drive professionally erased before disposing it.
- Victim research-thieves access government registers, Internet search engines, and public records to gain pieces of your personal information.
- Remote thievery-thieves can read contactless or smartcard credit cards remotely with a compact radio frequency device.
- Shoulder surfing-the thief simply eavesdrops on transactions you make in public and pick up whatever useful information you disclose.
- Computer identity theft-with the use of computer viruses, hacking, and zer-day attacks, thieves can get personal information from your computer.
- Employment scams-these scams advertise a bogus job and request personal information. Never give out personal identification information without knowing whom you are dealing with.
- Social networking-thieves regularly troll social networking sites to steal personal information so they can use to commit fraud.
For more details, visit https://local.nixle.com/alert/4699221/?sub_id=79043 .