Minimize Your Risk of Identity Theft
While you probably can’t prevent identity theft entirely, you can minimize your risk. By managing your personal information wisely, cautiously and with an awareness of the issue, you can help guard against identity theft:
- Before you reveal any personal identifying information, find out how it will be used and whether it will be shared with others. Ask if you have a choice about the use of your information: can you choose to have it kept confidential?
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bills don’t arrive on time. A missing credit card bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your credit card account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
- Guard your mail from theft. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after it has been delivered.
- Put passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your social security number or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.
- Minimize the identification information and the number of cards you carry to what you’ll actually need.
- Do not give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or know who you’re dealing with. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of banks, Internet service providers and even governmental agencies to get you to reveal your social security number, your mother’s maiden name, financial account numbers, and other identifying information. Legitimate organizations with which you do business have all the information they need and will not ask for it.
- Keep items with personal information in a safe place. To thwart an identity thief who may pick through your trash to capture your personal information, tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, bank checks and statements that you are discarding, expired charge cards and credit offers you get in the mail.
- Be cautious about where you leave personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are laving service work done in your home.
- Find out who has access to your personal information at work and verify that the records are kept in a secure location.
- Give your social security number only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible.
- Don’t carry your social security card; leave it in a secure place.
Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit- reporting agencies every year. Make sure it is accurate and includes only those activities you’ve authorized. The law allows credit bureaus to charge you up to $8.50 for a copy of your credit report.
Your credit report contains information on where you work and live, the credit accounts that have been opened in your name, how you pay your bills and whether you’ve been sued, arrested or filed for bankruptcy. Checking your report on a regular basis can help you catch mistakes and fraud before they wreak havoc on your personal finances.
Equifax – www.equifax.com
To order your report call: 800-685-1111
or write: P. O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA. 30374-0241
To report fraud call: 800-525-6285
and write: P. O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA. 30374-0241
Experian – www.experian.com
To order your report call: 888-397-3742 (EXPERIAN)
and write: P. O. Box 949, Allen, TX. 75013-0949
To report fraud call: 888-397-3742 (EXPERIAN)
and write: P. O. Box 949, Allen, TX. 75013-0949
Trans Union – www.tuc.com
To order your report call: 800-916-8800
or write: P. O. Box 1000, Chester, PA. 19022
To report fraud call: 800-680-7289
and write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P. O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA. 92634
A SPECIAL WORD ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS
Your employer and financial institution will likely need your social security number for wage and tax reporting purposes. Other private businesses may ask you for your social security number to do a credit check, such as when you apply for a car loan. Sometimes, however, they simply want your social security number for general record keeping. You don’t have to give a business your social security number just because they ask for it. If someone asks for your social security number, ask the following questions
- Why do you need my social security number?
- How will my social security number be used?
- What law requires me to give you my social security number?
- What will happen if I don’t give you my social security number?
Sometimes a business may not provide you with the service or benefit you’re seeking if you don’t provide your social security number. Getting answers to these questions will help you decide whether you want to share your social security number with the business. Remember, though, that the decision is yours.
For more information or if you would like a Crime Prevention Officer to speak to your group, call the Crime Prevention Unit at 847-870-5650.