BBB provides tips to keep your identity safe

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) –  From online shopping to creating accounts for all kinds of services, we all give out our personal information more often than we really realize – and it’s not hard for scammers to find it.

Some of it shows up on the foreign website vin.place. There were a lot of red flags raised when 15 Finds Out brought the website to the Better Business Bureau’s attention.

“In my own opinion it cannot be a legitimate website with the information that they’re giving,” Marjorie Stephens, the CEO of the BBB of Northern Indiana, said. “I’m going to contact other BBBs to see if they have anything on this site. We have a scam tracker and this needs to be opened up to the public so nationally people don’t go on there and give information.”

The Panama-based website links people’s personal information to a VIN, which is the unique number attached to every vehicle. It claims to get its information from car dealerships and insurance companies, but the dealerships and insurance companies that talked to 15 Finds Out all said they don’t redistribute customer information.

“We can never be careful enough,” Stephens said. “No matter if you’ve never touched a computer key in your life, you will never be 100 percent free of possible fraudulent activity.”

Most people’s personal information is found more easily than you’d think.

“This is a 24/7 operation for frauds and it blows my mind how much info they’re getting,” Stephens said.

But, the BBB said there are some easy ways to protect yourself from identity theft. First, freeze your credit. That will prevent a fraud from trying to get an account in your name.

“You can have it lifted for a day and that’s fine [if you need to open a line of credit] and it at least does secure your information,” Stephens said.

Click here to see how to freeze your credit.

Don’t give out your information to phone calls soliciting it. No bank or government agency will contact you asking for your account numbers.

“Never. They just don’t do that. They know better because they know the frauds are the ones doing that. And it can sound very good, but never fall for it,” Stephens said. “Never pay for anything up front. Never give your social security, your credit card your bank routing numbers.”

Beware emails and links from people you don’t know.

“How much more can we say don’t open a link from someone you don’t know. We just have to keep repeating it. Sometimes we feel like we’re preaching to the wall, but it’s so important to be aware, stop, step back and think about what you’re doing,” Stephens said.

Stephens also suggested shredding most things.

“It’s just so easy for people to get information anywhere now. People have to be vigilant and take some responsibility on themselves with what they throw away,” she said.

The BBB and Indiana State Police host a shred day two times a year in northeast Indiana.

It’s also a good idea to Google yourself to know where your information might be posted and file a consumer complaint if you want to be removed from a website.

While many of these tips have been said before, Stephens said people still fall for scams everyone needs to remember to be as proactive as possible.