Scam Alert: Be careful what you toss in trash

07/27/2008 3:17 AM

07/27/2008 3:22 AM

THE SCAM: One person's trash ...

HOW IT WORKS: Every day, thousands of people receive offers in the mail for credit cards or monthly statements for existing cards or bank accounts. But fraud experts said there's a growing problem with consumers who throw those statements and offers in the trash. Identity thieves gladly will dig through a garbage can for personal banking information. They also may use a discarded application to create a new card, which can be used to rack up bills in the victim's name. In this case, particularly if the thief has unpaid bills sent to another address, it can be months before the fraud is discovered.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: Your financial identity

HOW TO BEAT IT:

Rip up or, better yet, shred all mail and other documents with personal financial information before throwing them away. Monitor your bank accounts and credit accounts carefully for unexplained charges. To cut down on potentially troublesome paper records, consumers might consider switching to online banking. People also should check their free annual credit report to detect problems. The Web site for a report is www.annualcreditreport. com. Or call 877-322-8228.

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