Preventing Identity Theft
Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Fraud and Identity Theft
- Reduce the number of credit and debit cards you carry in your wallet. Most identity theft happens when a purse or wallet is stolen.
- Do not use debit cards when shopping online. Use a credit card; you are better protected in case of fraud.
- Keep a list or photocopy of all your credit cards, debit cards, bank accounts, expiration dates and telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud departments in a secure place (not your purse or wallet) so you can quickly contact these companies in case your credit cards are stolen or accounts are being used fraudulently.
- Never give out your Social Security Number, credit or debit card number or other personal information over the phone, by mail or on the Internet unless you have a trusted business relationship with the company and you have initiated the call.
- Always take credit card receipts with you. Never toss them in them a public trash container.
- Watch the mail when you expect a new or reissued credit card to arrive. Contact the issuer if the card does not arrive. Sign the back of all your credit cards.
- Make sure your mailbox is secure.
- Buy a shredder and use it to shred sensitive documents before tossing them in the trash.
- Order your credit report at least once a year. Federal law gives you the right to one free credit report each year from the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Special Precautions for Passwords and PIN's
- When creating passwords and PINs (personal identification numbers), do not use the last four digits of your Social Security Number, mother's maiden name, your birth date, middle name, etc. It's best to create passwords that combine letters and numbers.
- Utilize all security options available to you particularly those associated with Internet or Telephone banking.
- Memorize all your passwords. Don't record them on anything in your wallet.
- NEVER write your PIN on your ATM or Debit Card.
Obtain a free credit report
A very good way to keep identity theft at bay is to regularly review your credit report. A new federal law allows you a free copy once a year from each of the national credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.
How to get one:
By phone, call (877) 322-8228
On the Internet: annualcreditreport.com
Send a request to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
If you request your report online, you will be able to access it immediately. If you make a written request, you should receive your report in about 15 days. Because information may vary from one credit bureau to another, it is a good idea to request a report from all three major companies.