Monday, November 11, 2013

9 ways to prevent identity theft

According to published news reports, there were as many as 12.6 million cases of identify theft in the United States last year. In order to keep you from becoming another statistic, as my tip of the week, I wanted to share the top ten ways that you can protect yourself from it.

My top nine ways to prevent identity theft are:
  1. Don't carry more information with you than you need. Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet unless you know you you're going to need it that day. Also, don't write a PIN on a credit/debit card or on a slip of paper kept in your wallet.
  2. Watch out for "shoulder surfers." Use your free hand to shield the keypad when using an automated teller machine.
  3. Collect mail promptly. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold when you are away from home for more than a day or two.
  4. Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late then contact the sender. It's possible someone intercepted them and will use that information to steal your identity.
  5. Shred personal information. This includes receipts, credit offers, account statements and expired credit cards. This will prevent dumpster divers getting your personal information.
  6. Store personal information in a safe place at home and at work. Don't leave it lying around.
  7. Don't respond to unsolicited requests for personal information. It doesn't matter if that request comes in the mail, over the phone or online, simply do not respond to it.
  8. Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer. Individuals who use Microsoft Windows can get Microsoft Security Essentials for free here.
  9. Check your credit report once a year. The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows all consumers to get a free copy of their report once a year. You can get this, without any credit cards, through this website that was set up by the credit reporting agencies themselves. Check your report more frequently if you suspect someone has gotten access to your account information.
                Protecting yourself from identity theft is your Warrendale Tip of the Week for the week of November 11.
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