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Crime Tips & Prevention

Collage of credit cards and text reading social security.

Identity Theft tips to keep you Safe.

  1. Protect your social Security number: Memorize your social security number. You should never carry your social security card win your wallet, but keep it in a safe place at home. Do not put your social security number on your checks or even credit receipts. Do not give out your social security number unless there is a privacy notice accompanying the request.

  2. Shred any and all personal documents: Buy and use a diamond or cross-cut type shredder to shred anything that you discard that may contain personal or financial information. This includes financial records, bank statements, pre-approved credit offers from the mail, and credit card receipts. Identity thieves employ "dumpster diving" techniques to steal your identity, but if you shred your documents, they will come out smelly and empty handed.

  3. Treat your mail with care: Stolen mail is almost the easiest way to get vital information. Keep a watchful eye on your mail and do not let simply sit in your mailbox all day. If you have a curbside mailbox, you may want to consider adding a lock to thwart identity thieves. Drop off checks at a USPS mailbox, instead of mailing them from home. Also, inform the post office to hold your mail when going on a vacation and pick it up when you return.

  4. Know your payment cycles: Monitor your payment cycles on your credit cards and when your bank statements arrives every month. Call if the statements are late; identity thieves could have requested a change of address. It is not unusual for identity thieves to run up hefty charges before you even notice.

  5. When using the Internet, be on guard and watch for scams: Do not give personal information to people or companies who may ask you to click a link to verify your information. Do not click on links in email from unknown senders - if it is spam, it is a scam. Also, identity thieves have been using new "phising" techniques; they pretend to be an authoritative organization, such as your credit card or Ebay, asking you to verify your information. Never use these scam links; instead, log into your institution's website, and chances are you will see that the email was a scam. Never put identifying information on discussion forms or websites such as MySpace or Facebook. Also, you can further protect yourself by installing a good anti-spyware program and anti-virus scan on your computer.

  6. Select strong and unique passwords: Password protect all of your accounts with a combination of letters and numbers. If you make up word or phrase that does not exist in reality, your password becomes much stronger. When asked for a security question, do not use your mother's maiden name, as this is very sensitive information. Memorize your passwords and PIN numbers, but do not use anything hat would be easily guesses, such as birthdates or social security numbers.

  7. Verify sources before sharing information: Only provided information over the phone to people that you know. Identity theft scams can happen when a person says that they are a credit grantor of yours. Ask them if you can call them back and call the number that you know belongs to the company. When you discuss personal matters, provided only information that you believe is absolutely necessary. Avoid conducting surveys over the phone; they gather too much personal information that puts your safety at risk.

  8. Review your credit report frequently: Order your credit report at least twice a year; every three months would be ideal. Review it carefully. If you see anything that appears fraudulent or is not familiar to you immediately put a fraud alert on your reports by calling the three credit reporting agency numbers. Ensure that all of your addresses are correct; if you witness a change in address, this is a huge sigh that an identity thief is in the works. Check back with the credit agencies within 30 days to ensure the mistakes have been corrected. Also opt out of pre-approved offers with the credit bureaus by taking your name off all other promotional type of lists.

  9. Consider identity theft coverage: An ounce of prevention goes a long way, especially when you think of the countless hours that you could spend attempting to recover your stolen identity. A solid identity theft coverage program, such as Lifelock and Identity Guard type service, will not only save you time and money, but substantial frustration as well. These services will consistently monitor any changes to your personal credit files, ensuring that identity thieves are thwarted from marring your financial reputation.

  10. Clean our credit and debit cards: Cancel all old credit cards that you do not use because open credit is a prime target for identity theft. When you are going to receive a new card in the mail, be aware of when it should arrive. Call to check on the card if you have not received it by a certain date. Never put your credit card account number on the internet (unless you are sure it's encrypted on a secured site); instead, you can opt to use services like PayPal that shield your credit card number from being broadcasted all over the internet. In terms of debit cards, avoid going to the ATM late at night and always ensure no one is looking over your shoulder when you are entering your PIN.

  11. Store information in secure location: Put together a file of important information to safeguard your records. Make copies of all credit cards and bank account numbers, as well as their customer services phone number. Do not trust your hard drive to protect your identity, especially if it is connected to the internet.

  12. Safeguard your wallet and personal checks: Even though it is convenient to keep some things in your wallet, only carry what you absolutely need for day-to-day dealings. Never carry your birth certificate, social security card, or passport, unless necessary. When you order new checks, do not have your telephone number printed on them.

If you take these tips that help you stay safe from identity thieves, you safeguard your future and financial reputation. Remember, it is always easier to prevent id theft, then to fix the destruction and identity thief will wreck your credit and finances.

Identity theft could happen to you!