Although no one is 100% safe from identity theft there are some steps that you can take to help prevent it from happening to you.
Protect your credit cards, debit cards, and credit reports:
- Reduce the number of credit and debit cards you carry in your wallet.
- Do not use debit cards while shopping online.
- Take a photocopy of everything you carry in your wallet and keep it in a safe place. If your wallet is lost or stolen this information will be helpful to have.
- Never give out your SSN, credit or debit card number or personal information over the phone, mail or on the internet unless you have an established and trusted business relationship.
- Always take credit card receipts with you.
- Never permit your credit card number to be written onto your checks.
- Request your credit report once a year to monitor your accounts and inquiries.
Protect Passwords and PINS:
- When creating passwords and PINs do not use the last four digits of your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, your date of birth, middle name, pets names, etc.
- Memorize all your passwords.
- Shield your hand when using bank ATM or making long distance phone calls with your phone card to avoid “Shoulder surfers”.
Protect Social Security numbers:
- Release it only when necessary (on tax forms, employment records, bank accounts).
- Do not have your SSN or driver’s license number printed on your checks.
- Do not say your SSN out loud in a public place.
- Do not carry your SSN card in your wallet except for situations when it is required, like on the first day of a job.
Internet and computer safeguards:
- Install a firewall on your home computer to prevent hackers from obtaining personal identifying and financial data from your hard drive.
- Before disposing of your computer, remove date by using a strong “wipe” utility program.
- Never respond to “phishing” email messages. These messages may look like your bank, eBay, PayPal, etc…requesting personal information.
Reduce access to your personal data:
- When ordering checks pick them up at the bank. Do not have them sent through the mail.
- Have your name and address removed from the phonebook.
- Sign up for the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service. This will delete your name from a list used by nationwide marketers.
- PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512
- Sign up for Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry.
- National Do Not Call Registry, (888)382-1222
- Remove your name from marketing lists of the three credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This will limit the number of pre-approved offers for credit that you receive.
- Call 888-5OPTOUT
Handling personal information wisely:
- Review your credit card, bank and phone statements (including cell phones) for unauthorized use.
- Convert as much bill-paying as you can to automatic deductions from your checking account and/or credit account. This will reduce the risk of thieves stealing any of your bills from the mail to gain personal information.
- Do not toss pre-approved credit offers in your trash or recycling bin. Shred them to avoid them being recovered by “dumpster divers”.
- Use a gel pen to write checks. Experts say that gel ink contains tiny particles of color that are trapped in the paper, making check washing more difficult.
- Store canceled checks in a safe place. In the wrong hands they could reveal a lot of information about you.