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Prevent Identity Theft
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing white collar crimes in the nation, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Identity thieves try to obtain your personal information, such as your name, date of birth, and Social Security Number. They often get this information by going through your trash or taking items from your mail box. The thieves then use this information to access your current financial accounts, open new accounts in your name, or charge items or services to you. Your best defense against identity theft is to be vigilant with your personal and financial information.
Keep Information Confidential:
- Do not provide anyone with your personal information over the phone, Internet or through the mail unless you have initiated the contact or you know who you are dealing with.
- Monitor your financial account billing and reporting cycles. If you do not receive a bill or bank statement on time, follow up with that institution.
- Watch out for mail theft. Promptly pick up your mail and put outgoing mail in a US Postal Service collection box, especially if the mail contains checks or other personal or financial information.
- Purchase a shredder and shred items like charge receipts, credit card applications, and bank statements before throwing them away.
- Order a copy of your credit report each year, and notify credit bureaus immediately if you find errors.
- Be diligent in reviewing bank or credit card statements to see if there is fraudulent activity occurring.
- Cancel credit cards that you do not use on a regular basis so that you do not have numerous lines of credit that can be taken advantage of.
- Be creative with personal identification numbers (PINS) and other passwords. Do not use things that could easily be tied to you such as a birthday or a maiden name.
- Do not carry your Social Security Card in your purse or wallet unless absolutely necessary.
The US Department of Justice Recommends the SCAM Approach:
- S: Be stingy about giving out personal information.
- C: Check your financial information regularly.
- A: Ask periodically for a copy of your credit report.
- M: Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts.
Additional Security Measures:
- You can also call the main credit reporting agencies to have your name taken off the list for pre-approved offers by calling 1-888-567-8688.
- If you discover that you are the victim of identity theft, you should immediately take the following steps:
- Contact the fraud department for each of the the major credit bureaus.
- Contact the creditors for accounts that have been tampered with or opened falsely.
- File a police report.
- The major credit bureaus are: