to Avoid Identity Theft
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:
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.
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.
information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ
outside help or are having service work done in your home.
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.
see in Insurance -> Identify
share your personal info.
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.
your mail and trash from theft.
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.
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
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?
carry your Social Security card.
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.
the identification information and the number of credit and debit
cards that you'll actually need.
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.
purse or wallet in a safe place at work.
Special Word About Social Security Numbers
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:
you need my Social Security number?
my Social Security number be used?
requires me to give you my Social Security number?
happen if I don't give you my Social Security number?
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.
the decision is yours.
More Web resources
for Identity Theft: