Identity theft is one of the nation's fastest-growing crimes, and it can hit businesses as well as individuals.
A thief uses your credit card, Social Security number or business identification to establish credit in your name. You may not find out for months or years, until bill collectors start to come after you for unpaid debts.
Advice for protecting your accounts:
- Shred documents that provide financial information or key numbers. Shredders sell for as little as $29 and protect you from "dumpster divers" who root through trash for such treasures.
- Keep your Social Security number secret. Don't give it out if you don't have to. Most states allow you to substitute another number on your driver's license.
- Watch for delayed credit card bills. Make sure they haven't been intercepted in the mail.
- Check your own credit at least semiannually. Fraud may turn up there first.