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avoid identity theft
How to Avoid Identity Theft

Check out how you can protect yourself against identity theft with a few common sense suggestions and links to further resources, below. While it probably can't be prevented entirely, there are a few identity theft safeguards that have proven effective which include:

Getting your credit report.

Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies every year. Make sure it is accurate and includes only those activities you've authorized.

Credit Reporting Agencies

Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers. When opening new accounts, you may find that many businesses still have a line on their applications for your mother's maiden name. Use a password instead.

Secure personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having service work done in your home.

Ask about information security procedures in your workplace. Find out who has access to your personal information and verify that records are kept in a secure location. Ask about the disposal procedures for those records as well.

also see in Insurance -> Identify Theft Insurance

Don't share your personal info.

This seems obvious, but make sure you never, ever give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you've initiated the contact or are sure you know who you're dealing with. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of banks, Internet service providers (ISPs) and even government agencies to get you to reveal your Social Security number, mother's maiden name, account numbers and other identifying information. Before you share any personal information, confirm that you are dealing with a legitimate organization. You can check the organization's website as many companies post scam alerts when their name is used improperly, or you can call customer service using the number listed on your account statement or in the telephone book.

Guarding your mail and trash from theft.

Deposit outgoing mail in post office mailboxes or at your local post office, rather than in an unsecured mailbox. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox. If you're planning to be away from home and can't pick up your mail, call the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 to request a vacation hold. The Postal Service will hold your mail at your local post office until you can pick it up or are home to receive it.

To thwart an identity thief who may pick through your trash or recycling bins to capture your personal information, tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards that you're discarding, and credit offers you get in the mail.

Before revealing any personally identifying information (for example, on an application), find out how it will be used and secured, and whether it will be shared with others. Ask if you have a choice about the use of your information. Can you choose to have it kept confidential?

Don't carry your Social Security card.

Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible. If your state uses your Social Security number as your driver's license number, ask to substitute another number.

Carry only the identification information and the number of credit and debit cards that you'll actually need.

Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bills don't arrive on time. A missing credit card bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.

Be wary of promotional scams. Identity thieves may use phony offers to get you to give them your personal information.

Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work.

A Special Word About Social Security Numbers

Your employer and financial institution will likely need your Social Security number for wage and tax reporting purposes. Other businesses may ask you for your Social Security number to do a credit check, like when you apply for a loan, rent an apartment, or sign up for utilities. Sometimes, however, they simply want your Social Security number for general record keeping. You don't have to give a business your Social Security number just because they ask for it. If someone asks for your Social Security number, ask the following questions:

  • Why do you need my Social Security number?

  • How will my Social Security number be used?

  • What law requires me to give you my Social Security number?

  • What will happen if I don't give you my Social Security number?

Sometimes a business may not provide you with the service or benefit you're seeking if you don't provide your Social Security number. Getting answers to these questions will help you decide whether you want to share your Social Security number with them.

Remember – the decision is yours.

More Web resources for Identity Theft:


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