Lock in your Identity

By: Dustin Verley

Imagine your shopping at your local electronics store for your favorite game. Low and behold, you find it and grab it off the shelf. You make your way to the front of the store to check out. You get to the cashier, its scanned and your price comes up. NOW, you pull out your credit/debit card (or check) and use it to checkout. You go on with your day and 3 weeks later you get a call from your bank about your card being maxed out and still being charged.

What happened?

You've just been a victim to identity theft. Trust me, I'm no expert at identity theft but I browsed online for a few tips to help the younger crowd from becoming a victim to this growing crime.
1. Be watchful of shoulder-surfers. At ATMs and phone booths, thieves will stand close enough to see PIN numbers punched in by users.

2. Mind those credit card receipts, especially since only a few credit card receipts have stopped listing full account numbers and expiration dates. Put the charge slip copies in a safe spot until your credit card bills arrive.

3. Buy a shredder and use it. Shred everything, including credit card receipts (after you've reconciled your bill), old bank statements, medical statements, everyday bills, and pre-approved credit card offers. Any document that has personal financial information on it can give an identity thief a foothold into your life.

4. Write clearly on all credit applications. Consistently and completely fill in all credit and loan applications using your full name, first, middle and last. Every bill that comes to your house should be addressed exactly the same.

5. Monitor your credit accounts carefully, so you'll know if a bill's missing or unauthorized purchases have been made. Close out unused credit cards. Cutting them up is not enough.

6. Limit the number of credit cards you carry. The fewer cards you have, the easier it is to track them.

7. Get a credit report at least once a year and clean up any errors. Look for personal information and credit accounts that are not yours. Credit bureaus make mistakes.

8. Never leave paid bills in your mailbox for the mail carrier to pick up. Drop them off at a post office box.

9. If you're moving, contact all your creditors and update them of your address changes immediately. You don't want credit information and new credit cards being delivered to the wrong address. Likewise, if your credit card expires and you don't receive a new one, call your creditor immediately.

10. Protect your Social Security number. Only give your Social Security number when absolutely necessary. Avoid using it as your account number whenever possible. If merchants demand it, ask for an alternate number and take your business elsewhere if they insist on writing it on your check. Likewise, don't print it on your checks.

11. Never carry your Social Security number and driver license together in your wallet.

12. Don't provide your Social Security number, bank account number or credit card number to anyone who contacts you through telephone solicitation.

13. If you're shopping with an online merchant for the first time, look for the Trust-e symbol or a Better Business Bureau online seal. These indicate the seller has been independently audited and deemed trustworthy.

14. Make sure any online credit card charges are handled through a secure site or in an encrypted mode. You'll know you're on a secure site if the Web page on which you conduct your transaction begins with https instead of the usual http.

15. Only shop on Web sites that offer a privacy policy. Know how your personal information will be handled. Print out privacy policies, warranties, price guarantees and other important information.

Source: http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/cc/20020612a.asp
I also recommend you invest a small amount ($9.00 monthly) and signup to LifeLock, a company that strives to keep everyone from having lines of credit made out in their name. If anyone does so, you'll be contacted immediately and the criminal will be arrested.

You can check out that site on the inline advertisement.

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