Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How to avoid identity theft

1. Shred your financial documents and all personal information. Shred all pre-approved credit card applications. 2. Protect your social security number. If someone calls you, never give them your social security number. Get their number and call them back. I got such a call and they said it was "chase". I then looked on-line and called the 1-800 listed. The phone number did not belong to chase and no one from chase had called me. Thank goodness something seemed "strange" with the person on the phone! 3. Never click on links sent to unsolicited emails. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, anti-virus software and keep them up-to-date. 4. Don't use an obvious password like your birth date, your child's name, your pet's name, your mother's maiden name, or the last 4 digits of your social security number. 5. Keep your personal information in a secure place. Don't trust your roommates, friends, cleaning services, etc. I once had a party at my home and at the end of the evening my jewelry (that I had hidden in a good place) was gone. Someone at the party took it. I find found out who. It was someone that I considered a friend and I felt betrayed. 6. When to get nervous -- when your bills don't arrive on time, when you start receiving strange bills for accounts you've never heard of, when your credit is denied, or when bill collectors start calling. 7. Be sure to check your credit report once a year -- it's free! www.annualcreditreport.com 8. Place a FRAUD ALERT on your creidt reports if you suspect that someone is stealing your identity. If you place a fraud alert, you can get a free copy of your credit reports. Then check for any accounts you did not open or debts you can't explain. 9. Close accounts that have been tampered with or estabished fraudulently. Keep copies of everything and a summary of each phone call (date, time, who you talked to, the phone number you dialed) and keep them for at least 5 years. Go to the police and file a report. Be willing to prosecute the thief -- even if it's your sibling or parent! 10. Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. ftc.gov/idtheft 11. How do theives find your information -- dumpster diving, skimming (when they process your credit card they swipe it in a special machine), phishing on the internet, submitting a change of address for you, stealing your wallet or purse. Thieves often bribe employees of utility companies for information on good accounts. That is why most utility companies immediately fire anyone suspected of selling client information. If you've been in a hospital recently, you are in danger of identity theft -- your medical file has your full name, address, dob, ss#, etc. Who normally gets their identity stolen? People that are patients or work at medical centers military personnel college students people with friends in prison people with family members/friends on drugs people with family members/friends that gamble Who steals identities? People that need money quick - for gambling or drugs People that are about to be evicted or have their utilities turned off People that are mad at you (ex-spouse, ex-mother-in-law, ex-employee, co-workers) People with bad credit that want to buy something expensive & don't want to wait to save up for it

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