Minimize Identity Theft
How do thieves steal an identity?
The key to minimize identity theft or prevent identity theft is to know how your identity can be stolen. Identity theft occurs when someone misuses your personally identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. Then pretends to be you in order to get loans, credit cards, big-ticket items, etc or commit other crimes.
Skilled identity thieves use a variety of methods to get hold of your information. Knowing some of these methods will help you minimize identity theft and be in a better position to protect yourself.
Dumpster Diving. Identity thieves may rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
Changing Your Address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
Old-Fashioned Stealing. They steal wallets and purses, mail, including bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.
Pretexting They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.
10 Ways To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
1. Protect your Social Security number
Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary, and ask to use other types of identifiers.
If someone asks for your Social Security number, ask them why they need your Social Security number?, how will your Social Security number be used? and ask what will happen if you don't give your Social Security number?
2. Treat your trash and mail carefully
As mentioned above, dumpster diving is a popular method identity thieves use. An identity thief may pick through your trash or recycling bins to capture your personal information. To prevent this from happening to you, always shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards and credit offers you get in the mail. If you are receiving prescreened offers of credit in the mail, here are ways to opt out from such solicitation.
3. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox
Add a lock to your mailbox or get a P.O. box if possible. If you're planning a vacation or an over night trip, have a friend or neighbor pick up your mail for you.
You can also contact the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 or online at www.usps.gov, to request a vacation mail hold. The Postal Service will hold your mail at your local post office until you can pick it up or at home to receive it.
4. Protect yourself online
The Internet can leave you vulnerable to online scammers and identity thieves. For practical tips to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information, visit www.OnGuardOnline.gov.
5. Verify a source before sharing information
Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet unless you've initiated the contact and are sure you know who you're dealing with. Identity thieves are clever, and may pose as representatives of banks, Internet service providers (ISPs), and even government agencies to get people to reveal their Social Security number, mother's maiden name, account numbers, and other identifying information.
6. Safeguard your purse and wallet
Protect your purse and wallet at all times. Don't carry your Social Security number or card; leave it in a secure place. Carry only the identification information and the credit and debit cards that you'll actually need when you go out.
7. Monitor your credit report
Review your credit reports annually to check for suspicious activity. If you find anything that shouldn't be on it, alert your credit card company or the creditor immediately. You can order your free credit report once a year from the 3 major credit reporting agencies. Also look into credit protection services, which alerts you when a change takes place with your credit report.
8. Take your name off telemarketers lists
In addition to the national Do-Not-Call registry (1-888-382-1222), you can also cut down on junk mail and opt out of credit card solicitations.
9. Credit Card Skimming
Never let your credit card out of your sight. Always keep an eye on your card or, when that's not possible, pay with cash.
10. Don't leave a paper trail
Never leave ATM, credit card or gas station receipts behind, it's a primary target for identity thieves.
Other things you can do to guard against identity theft
Review of your bank and credit card statements
Reviewing your bank and credit card statements regularly will help you catch transactions that don't look right and allows you to alert your bank immediately.
Initiated by the credit bureaus, a security freeze prevents new creditors from accessing your credit file and others from opening accounts in your name until you lift the freeze. This makes it harder for identity thieves to open new financial accounts in your name.
Initiated by the credit bureaus, a fraud alert adds an extra layer of protection to your credit report. Placing a fraud alert is highly recommended if you have been a victim of identity theft.
Identity and credit monitoring
A service provided by the credit bureaus, identity and credit monitoring services scan your credit reports for you and alert you when a change occurs.
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