What You Can Do to Prevent Identity Theft
Check financial statements promptly. Check your bank statement, brokerage and credit card statements for accuracy, and report problems immediately.
Monitor your credit. Order credit reports annually from the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax (888-766-0008), www.equifax.com; TransUnion (800-680-7289), www.transunion.com; and Experian (888-397-3742),www.experian.com. Note: Reports of fraud and identity theft to any one of these credit bureaus will automatically generate a report to the other two agencies.
Be stingy with personal information. Never give out your Social Security number, birth date, or mother’s maiden name, unless you asked for the transaction. Do not put such information on forms except for employment, financing, and insurance. Never put such information on a web site or anywhere that is available to the public.
Just say “No!” Tell your bank that you “opt out” of information sharing. Also, avoid pre-approved credit offers by calling the Credit Reporting Industry Pre-Screening Opt-Out number at 1-888-567-8688.
Travel light. Don’t carry ID that contains sensitive data like your SSN unless absolutely necessary.
Lock it up. Lock your desk, cabinets and safes at the office and at home. Don’t leave access to anything sensitive like your driver’s license or government ID.
Shred and destroy. Shred any papers containing SSN, account numbers, birth dates. Destroy CDs and floppy disks containing sensitive data. Reformat your hard drive before discarding it.
Guard mail. Discourage mail theft by using a locked mailbox or a postal mailbox.
Keep your eye on the card. Crooks use a handheld card reader to copy your credit and debit card information. So don’t let waiters, sales clerks, or gas station attendants take your card out of your sight.
Beware of strange ATMs. Avoid private or strange-looking ATMs. They may be rigged to skim data off your card.
Avoid “shoulder surfers”. When using pay phones, ATMs, and public Internet access, avoid letting people see what you are doing. “Don’t use cordless phones to conduct sensitive financial or medical business” because it’s easy to listen in on cordless signals.
Build a wall. Use a firewall and anti-virus software on your computer to stop hackers.
Log off. Quit your browser and log off after using public Internet-access computers in libraries, Internet cafes, and the like. Don’t pay bills, bank, or conduct other financial transactions on public computers. If you have a high-speed Internet connection at home, unplug the computer’s cable or phone line when you are not using it to discourage hackers.
Deal only with reputable Web sites. A professional-looking Web site is no guarantee of security. Read the site’s privacy and security policies. Don’t enter personal data unless you trust the company and the site.
Don’t respond. Never respond to unsolicited emails which ask for personal information. Many sites, including FaceBook, Bebo, MySpace, hi5 and others, may pick up and sell your personal information.
Use complex passwords. All your bank and brokerage accounts should have passwords. Use passwords that are not in the dictionary. Consider using a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.
Check your workplace. Ask how your employer safeguards employee records. Request that Social Security numbers not be used as employee ID numbers.
Shred your documents. Your trash can is a potential treasure for identity thieves, so be sure to shred all documents, unsolicited mail, credit card applications, sales receipts, and any other documents containing your name, address or other personal identification information.
Protect your social media profile. So, you think your FaceBook or other social media site profile information is safe and secure? Wrong! Any information you upload to the Internet is never completely safe … or private. Sophisticated hackers and identity thieve are very clever when it comes to accessing any kind of online information – even within so-called “privacy-protected” areas of your online profile. Never upload your birth date, residence or post office addresses, or any other information that could personally identify you.
Beware of scammers. Never send money over the Internet to people or institutions you don’t know, especially to individuals or companies offering “get rich quick” schemes, or anyone promising you a fast buck if you’ll just enter your credit card information online or who ask you to send money via a wire transfer.