As many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Identity thieves may use your personal information to access your financial accounts, open credit cards, even rent an apartment in your name. Here are tips from the FTC, National Consumers League and Gibson Research on avoiding identity theft:
Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails. They could lead to legitimate-looking websites aimed at tricking you into entering your Social Security number, user name or account passwords. Also, don't give out financial or account information to unsolicited callers, even if they say they're from your bank.
Get off mailing lists for pre-approved credit offers. These lists are a "gold mine" for identity thieves, said the National Consumers League. Call (888) 5-OPTOUT ( 567-8688) or go to http://www.optoutprescreen.com to remove your name from national lists. You will have to provide your Social Security number.
Don't put your full date of birth on Facebook, or anywhere else online. If you want your friends to know your birthday, use only the month and day, not the year. Date of birth is one of the key pieces of information that many companies use to confirm identity.