Four strategies for avoiding identity theft

How to beat scammers at their own game

Christine Benz 20 April, 2010 | 6:00PM
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We've all gotten more familiar with how to protect ourselves from identity theft, and the proof is in the data. The amount of dollars ripped off in each identity theft incident has dropped sharply, to less than $500 per incident, in part because consumers have gotten more vigilant about protecting their information and reporting possible instances of identity theft promptly.

Unfortunately, the number of identity theft incidents has been spiking amid the faltering economy. In the United States, reported cases of identity theft increased to nearly 10 million in 2008, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, up 22% from 2007.

Identity thieves are using new methods of which you need to be aware, such as "skimming" and "pretexting." They're stealing personal information to rent apartments, open new credit cards, obtain health insurance or health care, establish utilities, or even obtain employment and loans. That fraud, in turn, exacts an enormous financial and emotional toll on those who are scammed.

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About Author

Christine Benz

Christine Benz  Christine Benz is Morningstar's director of personal finance and author of 30-Minute Money Solutions: A Step-by-Step Guide to Managing Your Finances and the Morningstar Guide to Mutual Funds: 5-Star Strategies for Success. Follow Christine on Twitter: @christine_benz.

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