Prevent Identity Theft

By: Itna Yeknom

One Step Up on Identity Thieves

Be careful about giving out personal information. Whether on the phone, by mail, or on the Internet, prevent identity theft and never give anyone your card number, Social Security number, or other personal information for a purpose you don't understand. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible, and don't carry your SSN card. Be sure to keep it in a secure place.

Protect your mail. To stop a thief from obtaining personal information( stealing identity) about you by going through your through trash or recycling bin, tear or shred your charge receipts, credit applications, insurance forms, bank statements, expired charge cards, and preapproved credit offers. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Remember to remove mail from your mailbox after it's delivered. If you plan to go away, call the U.S. Postal Service at 800-275-8777 and request a vacation hold.

Guard your credit cards. Minimize the information and the number of cards you carry in your wallet. If you lose a card, contact the identity theft protection division of the credit card company. If you apply for a new credit card and it doesn't arrive in a reasonable period, contact the issuer.

Watch cashiers when you give them your card for a purchase. Also, when you receive a new card, sign it in permanent ink and activate it immediately.

Pay attention to billing cycles. Contact creditors immediately if your bills arrive late. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your credit card account and changed your billing address.

Safeguard personal information in your home. Especially if you are having service work done in your home, employ outside help, or have a roommate.

Find out who has access to your information at work. Be sure to verify that records are kept in a secure location, and are accessible only to employees who have a legitimate reason to access it.

Memorize your passwords and personal identification numbers instead of carrying them with you. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.

Other ID Theft Facts

Zero responsibility doesn't mean zero problems. Because credit card companies must limit consumer responsibility to $50 in most cases of fraud, and because many new cards include "zero responsibility" identity theft prevention or protection, some people think there's no reason to worry about credit fraud. But in its most advanced form -- identity theft -- credit fraud can cause wide-ranging long-term problems. Identity thieves can use your personal information to take over your credit accounts and open new ones. They may even use your good credit to get a job, take out a car loan, or rent an apartment.

Check your credit report regularly. Checking your credit report can help you catch mistakes and prevent identity theft fraud before they wreak havoc on your personal finances. Make sure your report is accurate and includes only those activities you've authorized. It's also a good idea to review your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies every year -- it's possible that information is reported to one but not the others.

Quick Fact

Although the identity theft problem is nationwide, states with the highest incidence of identity theft are California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Texas, IllinoisFree Reprint Articles, and Washington.

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