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WebsiteCompass 13 Back to Basics The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 1.4 million identity theft complaints in 2020. Some of those incidents involved scams related to government benefits, as thieves took advantage of federal stimulus payments meant to help those suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 10 Ways to Help Prevent Identity Theft These simple steps can go a long way toward keeping you safe What Is Identity Theft? Identity theft is any use of personal information to carry out crimes, such as running up credit card balances or drain- ing savings accounts. One of the scariest things about identity theft is that you might not know it’s happened until you try to open a new credit account or get health insurance, or you receive a notice from the IRS. Other clues that you’ve been a victim include seeing withdrawals from your bank account that you didn’t make, getting calls from debt collectors about debts you don’t have, or no longer receiving bills or other mail. How Do Scammers Get Your Information? Strangers can gain access to your personal information in many ways, including getting the number from your credit card when you use it in person, dumpster diving for sensitive documents, and online scams that trick you into revealing personal information. It’s not fun to think about, but strangers aren’t the only ones who have access to this sensitive data. Your neighbors, cowork- ers, people you do business with, and even friends and family could potentially become part of these crimes as well. What Can You Do? The serious problem of identity theft is not likely to go away any time soon. So, the best thing you can do is protect yourself. Here are 10 ways to avoid being a victim. 1. Protect Private Information If someone requests your personal infor- mation—including your birthdate, bank account numbers, Social Security number, or passwords to financial accounts—make sure they have a very good reason for need- ing it. Never provide this information to anyone you don’t know contacting you by phone or email. If in doubt, reach out to