The following tips can help you prevent Identity Theft:
1. Purchase a shredder to shred all your personal documents.
2. Consider putting a fraud alert on your credit accounts.
Contact the major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. Future creditors will then have to contact you to confirm any new accounts by phone.
3. Slow the flow of junk mail.
About 62 million trees and 25 billion gallons of water are used to produce a typical year's worth of junk mail in the U.S. Worst of all, it puts you at greater risk for identity theft because each pre-approved credit offer you receive is an invitation for someone to open a credit line in your name.
To remove your name from the marketing lists of the three credit reporting bureaus call the Opt-Out Line: 1-888-567-8688.
4. Be Aware of Scams
Common scams include:
You've won a Prize! Scam
- We all want to be winners, but don't be fooled into giving out your personal information. If someone calls you to offer you the chance to receive a "major" credit card, a prize or other valuable item, but asks you for personal data—such as your Social Security Number (SSN), credit card number, expiration date, or mother's maiden name-be cautious! Ask them to send you a written application form. If they won't, tell them you're not interested and hang up.
Nigerian Prince Scam
- This scam has been used for over a decade and is sent out to victims via letter, e-mail or fax. It consists of a message stating the sender has a large sum of money, usually $10 million or more, and needs help transferring it out of Nigeria or some other country. As a reward for your help, the sender promises to pay you a percentage of the transferred funds. Don't give out your bank account number or any other personal information! The Better Business Bureau can give you information about businesses that have been the subject of complaints.
5. Protect your Social Security Number
One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from identity theft is to protect your Social Security Number. By obtaining it, a thief can get access to many things including your bank accounts and credit cards.
- Do not carry your social security card in your wallet or purse. Keep this card in a safe place.
- Do not imprint your SSN on your checks.
- When asked to provide your SSN, ask the individual why it is needed and how they will be using the number.
- Do not post your SSN in emails or chat rooms.
- When applying for something online, make sure that the site is secure.
6. Sign up for the Federal Trade Commission's "National Do Not Call Registry" and the Direct Marketing Association's "Telephone Preference Service."
You may also need to register for our state's "do not call" lists.
National Do Not Call Registry
Telephone Preference Service, PO Box 1559, Carmel, NY 10512
7. Have your name and address removed from the phone book and reverse directories.
8. Install a locked mailbox at your residence.
This will deter mail theft. Or, use a post office box or a commercial mailbox service. When you are away from home for an extended time, have your mail held at the post office or ask a trusted neighbor to pick it up.
9. Pick up new checks at the bank rather than have them mailed to your home.
If you have a post office box, use that address on your checks rather than your home address so thieves will not know where you live.
10. When you pay bills, do not leave the envelope containing your check at your mailbox.
If stolen, your checks can be altered and then cashed by the imposter. It is best to mail bills and other sensitive items at the post office.
11. Reduce the number of credit cards you actively use to a minimum, and carry only one or two in your wallet.
Consider canceling unused accounts. Even though you do not use them, the account numbers are recorded in your credit report, providing a tempting target for identity thieves. Be aware that reducing the number of credit card accounts might lower your credit score.
12. Photocopy or keep a list of all your credit card, bank account, and investment account numbers.
Make note of expiration dates and telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud departments. Keep these in a secure place (not your wallet or purse) so you can quickly contact these companies in the event your credit cards are stolen or accounts are used fraudulently.
13. Never give out your SSN, credit card number or other personal information over the phone, by mail or on the internet unless you have a trusted business relationship with the company and you have initiated the call.
Identity thieves have been known to call their victims with a fake story that goes something like this: "Today is your lucky day! You have been chosen by the Publishers Consolidated Sweepstakes to receive a free trip to the Bahamas. All we need is your Social Security Number, credit card number and expiration date to verify you as the lucky winner."
14. Always take credit card receipts with you.
Never toss them in a public trash container. When shopping, put receipts in your wallet rather than in the shopping bag. Never permit your credit card number to be written onto your checks.
15. Watch the mail when you expect a new or reissued credit card to arrive.
Contact the issuer if the card does not arrive promptly.
16. Order your credit report at least once a year.
Credit reports cost $8-$9 in most states. If you are on a budget, order from one credit bureau now, from another in six months, and the third six months later. In one year you will have checked all three.