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Fighting Back Against Identity Theft

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 04:07 PM CDT

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. It affects each of us and your first sign of a problem might be as simple as not getting a credit card bill in the mail one month. But from there, identity theft can make your life a financial nightmare.

The next time you open your mail think twice before you just toss it in the trash. Dumpster diving is a popular way to steal your personal and financial information.

"Local people who will go out to the dumpsters, steal the information, create fake checks," said Matt Malone the CEO of Assero Security.

And the identity thieves who aren't digging in your garbage are online looking for ways to trash your credit.

"Overseas you have companies that are actually developed and grown and built and all they do are online attacks," said Malone.

Malone is an identity theft expert who has had to take his work home with him.

"It happened to my grandmother. A caregiver was stealing medication and also stole her identity," said Malone.

After that he started offering free training sessions to seniors, like this group in Sun City.

"In this room we asked how many people were victims of it and about 90 percent raised their hand," said Malone.

Anyone, including children, can have their identities stolen. But, seniors are some of the most common victims.

"This is something we're all afraid of," said Diana Waterbury who knows just eating out can expose you to ID theft.

"There was a bogus charge on a credit card that turned out to be from one of the waiters in a restaurant where we had eaten," said Waterbury.

Response time is everything. Experts say to think of it like a medical emergency.

"If someone attacks your identity the quicker you know it and the quicker you respond to it the better options you have to fix it," said Malone.

And this is not the time of year to let down your guard. ID thieves are ready to cash-in on the season of giving.

"Especially with the holidays coming up it's going to become more and more prevalent," said Malone.

Since your response time needs to be so fast here are some warning signs that your identity has been stolen.

You stop receiving bills or other mail. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.

You start getting credit cards that you didn't apply for.

You're denied credit, or you're offered a high interest rate for no apparent reason.

And an obvious one -- you get calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn't buy.

The Federal Trade Commission has more information on what you need to know to protect yourself from identity theft and what steps you should take if your personal or financial information is stolen.

By Bettie CrossFighting Back Against Identity Theft


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