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Identity Theft Prevention Tips



  • Shred personal financial information with a cross cut - confetti cut paper shredder. Sixty-nine percent of respondents in a recent survey said they tear up personal information by hand, but it's important to remember that tearing and shredding are not the same thing, as only shredding allows private documents to be destroyed into unidentifiable pieces.
  • Shred ALL unsolicited, pre-approved credit card offers with a confetti cut paper shredder. Treat these documents the same as personal financial information, as thieves can easily fill out the information, change addresses and receive a credit card in your name.
  • Check your credit report annually. Only 48 percent of Americans order a credit report at least once every two years, which puts them at risk for not catching discrepancies in their credit history. In addition, credit monitoring services are available to consumers and some states also allow consumers to place credit freezes on their files to proactively protect themselves against identity fraud.
  • Review your monthly credit card and bank statements for any errors or unauthorized purchases promptly and thoroughly. Notify your credit or debit card issuer immediately if you suspect someone is using your accounts without your permission.
  • Use a locked mailbox to send and receive all mail. Thieves will steal mail straight from your unlocked mailbox.
  • Don't keep your Social Security card and any information that includes your Social Security number in your wallet or purse.
  • When possible, limit what you carry. If you have your wallet or purse lost or stolen, it's easier to track fewer credit cards.
  • Never give out your credit card or other personal information such as a Social Security number over the telephone unless you are the one that originated the call.
  • Reduce the number of pre-approved credit card offers you receive by calling 1-888-5OPT OUT.
  • Do not download internet files sent to you by strangers or click on hyperlinks from people you don't know.
  • Use updated anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software on your computer to protect against online scammers. Before disposing an old computer, use electronic file shredder software to remove personal data from the computer's hard drive.
  • Delete any suspicious and unsolicited e-mail requests without replying to them, as "phishers" will use bank logos and templates to make emails look like a bank inquiry. Be sure to notify your financial institution if you receive these types of e-mails.
  • Use a secure and up-to-date Web browser that encrypts or scrambles the purchase information you send over the Internet.
  • Be aware of your surroundings -- thieves may eavesdrop and overhear the information you give out orally, or will even use a camera phone or other technologies to steal your information.
  • Be careful with all of your personal information in your home as well, by putting all personal information in a lock-box. Unfortunately, 15 percent of those filing internet fraud complaints in 2005 were victimized by family members, friends or acquaintances.