What can I do to keep from becoming a victim of identity theft/fraud?

Personal Finance October 28, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Here are some ideas:

  • Keep personal information safe. Don’t keep your personal identification numbers (PINs) with your checkbook, ATM card, or debit card.
  • Be sure to shred any papers that contain confidential information using a cross-cut shredder before you throw them out.
  • Keep as few credit cards as possible in your purse or wallet.
  • Don’t carry your Social Security number.
  • Be cautious when giving out personal information on the telephone or through the Internet. Unless you initiated the contact, don’t give out confidential information. Never submit your Social Security number, passwords, or PINs via an e-mail message or fax.
  • Be especially careful about giving out your Social Security number. Some businesses may have a real reason for needing it, but not all. However, be aware that a business may refuse to provide you with the service you request if you do not give them this information.
  • Check monthly statements, bills, and invoices to verify all transactions. Notify your financial institution or the retailer immediately if you detect erroneous or suspicious transactions.
  • Review your credit report each year for suspicious activity and to make sure that your basic financial information is accurate. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2005 requires the major credit bureaus to provide one free copy of your credit report each year. The central location for getting reports from the three primary credit bureaus is annual credit report.com or call 877-322-8228. Additionally,
  • Completely destroy data on the hard drive of computers you plan to dispose of or sell. It's not enough to delete data from the computer's memory; use specially designed software programs to totally erase data.
  • Use antivirus software and security patches and update them regularly to protect system software.
  • Never reply to unsolicited e-mails concerning company or personal bank accounts, and do not click on a link within e-mail messages.

The Federal Trade Commission serves as a clearinghouse to receive consumer complaints and provide assistance. It provides excellent information on the issue and how to protect yourself. For further information, see: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft//.

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