thieves rob more than 500,000 Americans every year. These steps will help you
reduce your risk of identity theft. the following are ten ways you can protect
yourself from being one of them.
Your Social Security number
most important step is to guard your Social Security number -- it is the key
to your credit report and banking accounts and is the prime target of
criminals. Do not print your Social Security number on your checks.
After applying for a loan, credit card, rental or anything else that requires
a credit report, request that your Social Security number on the application
be truncated or completely obliterated and your original credit report be
shredded before your eyes or returned to you once a decision has been made. A
lender or rental manager needs to retain only your name and credit score to
justify a decision.
your credit report
Credit reports can alert you to activity in your financial records.
A monitoring service, such as
Guard, will notify you whenever someone applies for credit in your name
or checks your credit history. You then can be proactive; call the person and
ask, "Why are you checking my credit?" It might be a landlord or
employer; it might be legitimate.
Now you can
check your credit report online.
Look over your report carefully and make sure to correct any errors you find
a shredder and use it
thieves may use your garbage to obtain personal information. Shred all old
bank and credit statements, as well as "junk mail" credit-card
offers, before trashing them. Use a crosscut shredder -- they cost more than
regular shredders but are superior.
your name from marketing lists
three credit-reporting bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- all
maintain marketing lists that may contain your information. Contact the
agencies to remove your name from the lists. You also should add your name to
the name-deletion lists of the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference
Service and Telephone Preference Service used by banks and other marketers.
Removing your name from these lists reduces the number of pre-approved credit
offers you receive.
Watch what you carry in your wallet
not keep your Social Security card in your wallet or carry extra credit cards
or other important identity documents except when needed. These documents can
give thieves ready access to your accounts.
Place the contents of your wallet on a
photocopy machine. Copy both sides of your license and credit cards so you
have all the account numbers, expiration dates and phone numbers if your
wallet or purse is stolen.
Mail payments from a safe location
not mail bill payments and checks from home. They can be stolen from your
mailbox. Take them to the post office.
Monitor your Social Security activity
your Social Security Earnings and Benefits statement once a year to check for
fraud. Go to:
Monitor your credit-card activity
examine your credit-card statements for fraudulent charges before paying them.
If you don't need or use department-store or bank-issued credit cards, close
who you are talking to
your credit-card number or personal information over the phone unless you
have initiated the call and trust that business.