Preventing Identity Theft
- Some telephone solicitations disguised as promotions offering instant prizes or awards are actually designed to obtain your personal information or credit card numbers for fraudulent use.
- If someone calls you claiming to be from one of your banks or creditors, tell them you will hang up and call them back at the telephone number printed on your statement or bill. If the call is legitimate, they will gladly cooperate.
- Never give your personal information over the telephone, such as your social security nubmer, date of birth, mother's maiden name, credit card number, or bank PIN code, unless you initiated the call to a known, reliable telephone number and it is absolutely necessary.
Credit Cards and ATMs
- Order online credit reports yearly, half-yearly or monthly. Check for errors, such as, credit accounts you do not recognize, delinquences that are not yours, and unathorized credit card applications. Any of these may indicate that someone else is using your name.
- Never leave receipts at bank machines, bank counters, trash receptacles, or gasoline pumps. Keep track of all your paperwork.
- Shred papers when they are no longer needed.
- Empty your wallet of extra credit cards, and credit card slips. Cancel the credit cards you do not use.
- Do not write your PIN on your ATM card.
- Do not use your spouse's, kid's, or pet's name, or other easily guessed words for your online account passwords or PINs.
- Call 1-888-5-OPT OUT to discontinue pre-approved credit card offers.
- Sign all new credit cards.
- Save all credit card receipts and match them against your monthly bills.
- Notify your credit card companies and financial institutions in advance of any change or address or telephone number.
- Never loan your credit card to anyone.
- Never include your credit card number or other financial account number on a postcard or on the outside of a envelope.
- Report all lost or stolen credit cards immediately. When traveling, have the credit card telephone numbers separate from the credit cards, so you know who to call if your wallet is lost or stolen.
- If a new credit card or replacement credit card does not arrive in a timely manner, call the bank or credit card company.
- Remove all mail from your mailbox promptly after delivery.
- Better yet, install a US Postal approved locking mailbox.
- Deposit outgoing mail at your local post office. Do not leave mail in unsecured mail receptacles where thieves can steal outgoing checks. They can even use wire and chewing gum to pull mail from collection boxes, so know the schedule for the last pickup of the day.
- Open all credit card applications you receive in the mail and shred all applications containing your pre-printed name, address, etc. If you place them in the trash unshredded, they can be used to obtain credit in your name.
- Have newly printed checks delivered to your bank for pickup, especially if you do not have a secure mailbox.
- Contact credit card companies and financial institutions if statements do not arrive on time. If bills are late, check with your local post office and with your creditors to see if someone has changed your mailing address.
- Have a trusted relative, friend, or neighbor bring in your mail and newspapers when you are on vacation.
- Use caution when disclosing checking account and credit card numbers at any web site. Check your browser for a secured authentication key. Also, check your computer for spyware that can record your key board strokes.
- Be aware of the "phishing email scams" that are circulating the internet. Don't be fooled by email that looks authentic, asking you to update your personal information.
- Review all online savings accounts and online checking accounts monthly or weekly for unauthorized transactions.
- When shopping online, consider these "online shopping tips" before you buy.
- The U.S. federal government maintains a web site with information regarding identity theft called The Federal Trade Commission: Your National Resource for Identity Theft. There are detailed instructions on how to manage your identity and what to do if your identity is stolen. Learn the steps to take to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
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