Some Recommended Ways to Protect Yourself
Completely destroy (by shredding, burning, etc.) ANY document containing personal information, such as bills, mailed offers, statements, letters. Perpetrators often get personal information by “dumpster diving” – going through your trash for bits of personal information.
Use Electronic Banking and Bill Payments, subject to the home computer security recommendations below. This will reduce paper and will allow you to review your banking accounts anytime during the month, rather than when monthly statements are sent.
Make sure that you open and review monthly statements PROMPTLY. Look for any unauthorized activity. If you don’t, you may allow fraudulent activity to continue. Also, some fraud protection laws have time limits and, if you do not review the statements promptly, you may lose some of your protection.
If you have a home computer:
• Make sure you have adequate virus and firewall protection. Update this software regurlarly.
• Be careful when accessing some file sharing websites and services (i.e. music, video, etc.) – some of these sites open your hard drive (and any personal information on it) for access by anyone on the net.
• Be cautious when opening your email messages - especially those with attachments and those from persons you do not know. Email messages can carry electronic virus, worms, Trojan horses, etc. without you even being aware. WHEN IN DOUBT – DELETE without opening.
• Don’t sell or give your outdated computer away without having a professional clean the information from the hard drive. JUST DELETING INFORMATION IS NOT ENOUGH! The information is still there – the only thing that has been deleted is the link to it.
• NEVER respond to email inquiries asking for any kind personal information – no matter how legitimate it may appear (this is called “spoofing” or “phishing”). Recently, people have been getting bogus email requests for personal information from what looks exactly like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). NO ETHICAL BUSINESS OR GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY WILL EVER ASK FOR YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION BY MEANS OF AN EMAIL TO YOU.
• Change your user names and PINs (Personal Identification Number) or passwords frequently. Don’t use easily guessed passwords or PINS – e.g. your first name, your birth date, etc.
• DON’T conduct personal business on public PC’s (e.g. the library, internet cafes, etc.).
Periodically obtain a copy of your credit report and review it for anything unusual. Get reports from all three of the major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion).
Drop outgoing mail in a secure postal service mailbox INSTEAD of placing it in your personal mailbox. It is not unusual for perpetrators to get to your mailbox before the mail carrier.
Completely mark through credit card or account numbers on copies of receipts that you send in for rebates, returns, etc.
PROTECT your Social Security Number. Many times, it is the perpetrator’s passport to the remainder of your personal information and business.
DON’T carry your social security card (or have your SSN written down) with your driver’s license in your purse or wallet. If you do and your purse or wallet is stolen, a perpetrator has everything he/she needs to EASILY carry out identity theft.
BE CAREFUL when using ATM’s. Stand closely or shield the keypad when inputting your PIN so that someone else can’t see your key strokes. Don’t take a chance with your personal safety if you feel uncomfortable with the location of the ATM. Also, do not write your PIN on the card or carry it in your wallet with the card.
Make sure that you continue to protect your old records and documents that you seldom refer to but need to keep. Don’t store them in your garage or out building where they can be accessed by anyone.
Consider using only your initials and surname instead of your full name on your preprinted checks. Also sign them that way. AND NEVER have your Social Security Number or driver’s license number preprinted on your checks. There is no use in giving a potential identity thief any help.
Make a personal schedule of when you get your bills and statements. Inventory them weekly to make sure you receive ALL of them. If some are missing – check with the company involved. One of the first things a perpetrator may attempt to do is change your address so that you will not see the fraudulent activity being done.
Consider purchasing identity theft insurance. Please discuss coverage options with your licensed Insurance Agent.
Please note: The above information is NOT a complete study of identity theft and there definitely are other actions you can take to protect yourself Identity theft can happen to anyone.
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