Monday, February 16, 2009

Prevent Identity Theft

Category: Financial Planning

HOW TO PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT - Courtesy of Valeria and Carolyn Messina of

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is the unlawful use of another person’s identification, and may take many forms. Common methods of identity theft include credit card or other financial institution fraud, phone or utility services theft, and the taking of government documents or benefits.

Unfortunately, every day thieves are finding new ways of using the identities of their victims.

Identity thieves typically get this information from:
Stolen wallets and purses
Stolen mail
Unauthorized access to computers
Telemarketing scams
Sharing of passwords
Fraudulent e-mails
Dumpster diving (searching through your trash can)

How can I keep my identity safe?
Check your credit reports and scores on a regular basis.
Shred any documents and mail that contain your Social Security Number (SSN), account numbers and other personal information.
Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Memorize your SSN.
Check financial statements and bills as soon as they arrive. Report any unauthorized transactions to the companies immediately.
Lock your mailbox. Deposit outgoing mail containing checks in a postal box—don’t leave it sitting in your unlocked mailbox or apartment lobby.
At home, secure sensitive information like bank and credit card statements, insurance records, etc., where they can’t be seen by visitors or workers.
At teller machines (ATMs), shield the PIN keypad while entering credit and debit card passwords.
Try to keep an eye on your credit card when you give it to a merchant or waiter.
When you order new checks, look out for them. Make sure they are delivered to a locked mailbox.
Change your passwords regularly and do not share them with anyone.
Nver respond to requests by phone or e-mail for personal information, no matter how urgent the request seems. Find the number of the company online and call to ask if the request is legitimate.
Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet unless you’ve initiated the call or you are absolutely sure you know the company or person you’re dealing with.
Read your bank’s privacy notice so that you understand how it uses your information for marketing. If you don’t want to get preapproved credit offers, call 888-5OPT-OUT (567-8688) to stop them.
Be careful about giving away information about yourself. Question why a business needs your SSN, mother’s maiden name or other information.
Monitor your mail for missed bills, credit card statements and other mail that you expected. A missing bill might mean that a thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address.
Investigate mysterious purchases, charges, bills or collection calls immediately. If you receive a credit card you didn’t apply for, find a strange charge on your credit card or get calls or letters from debt collectors about bills you don’t recognize, call the companies immediately to address the problem.
Question credit offers. If you know you have good credit but your application for a new credit card is denied, it could signal identity theft. When you are denied credit, you can get a free copy of your credit report from the credit bureau used by the lender.

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