Preventing Identity Theft is a matter of being pro-active and always being vigilant. Your goal should be to limit other people’s access to your information.
- Identity Theft costs banks and credit card companies over $5 Billion each year
- Identity Theft affects over 500,000 consumers every year
- An average victim will spend $1,500 and 175 hours to unravel the mess created by identity theft
Here are 12 Steps Toward Preventing Identity Theft:
Step 1. Guard your Social Security number
It’s the prime target because it leads to your credit report and your bank accounts. Do not print it on your checks. If you use it to apply for a loan, credit card, rental or anything requiring a credit check, ask that it be returned to you once the transaction is completed.
Step 2. Monitor your Credit Report
You can arrange to be alerted to activity in your financial records. Once notified, you can follow-up. Credit reports are available form many services including the three major Credit Bureaus:
Step 3. Buy a shredder and use it
Always destroy papers containing personal information before throwing them out. The Emerson Police Department recommends a “cross-cut shredder” to shred documents.
Step 4. Watch what you put in the trash
Items containing personal information, such as bank statements & receipts, etc., should not be thrown in the trash. Theives may search trash for jsut this kind of information.
Step 5. Remove your name from marketing lists
The three major credit bureaus maintain marketing lists which may contain your information. It is advisable to request that your name be deleted from these lists and from the Direct Marketing Association’s mail and telephone preference service.
Step 6. Keep duplicate records
Copy the contents of your wallet (both sides of each item) so that you have all your account numbers and other data in the event of loss or theft of a wallet or purse. Keep them in a safe and secure place such as a safety deposit box.
Step 7. Know to whom you are speaking
On the phone, never release personal information unless you have initiated the call and truct the business with which you are dealing.
Step 8. Be aware of your surroundings
Use caution when using ATM cards, making credit card purchases and utilizing pin numbers and passwords.
Step 9. Monitor
Keep an eye on credit card activity, bank statements and other financial accounts to ensure that all balances and receipts match. Review all statements when you get them. Close unnecessary department or bank-issued credit cards.
Step 10. Mail payments from a safe location
Mail boxes at private homes generally are not very secure. Do not place outgoing mail in your home mail boxes. Consider using a locked mail box to receive all mail.
Step 11. If you use a computer
Have a firewall and virus protection installed. Be aware that it is possible that the personal information you send over the internet could be viewed by others. Make sure the site secured.
Step 12. Destroy
Computers, hard drives, floppy disks, compact discs and any other electronic recording device which may contain personal information should be destroyed prior to disposing of it.
Remember, it will be your responsibility to correct credit card errors and restore your identity.