Thursday, January 03, 2008

Preventing Identity Theft

Identity Theft is a crime in which the thief obtains key pieces of personal identifying information such as Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers and uses them to commit fraud or other crimes. This personal information is usually obtained from lost or stolen wallets, pilfered mail, a data breach, computer virus, phishing, a scam, or paper documents thrown out by you or a business (dumpster diving). The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Identity thieves can empty your bank account, max out your credit cards, open new accounts in your name, and purchase furniture, cars, and even homes on the basis of your credit history. Unfortunately, many consumers learn that their identity has been stolen after some damage has been done. You'll get the headache and expense of cleaning up the mess they leave behind. While you may never be able to completely prevent your identity from being stolen, there are many things you can proactively do to help protect yourself from becoming a victim. • Review your credit report periodically. It is important to check to make sure that all the information contained in it is correct, and be on the lookout for any fraudulent activity. You may get your credit report for free once a year. To do so, contact the Annual Credit Report Request Service online at or call (877) 322-8228. If you need to correct any information or dispute any entries, contact the three national credit reporting agencies: Equifax: (800) 685-1111 Experian: (888) 397-3742 TransUnion: (800) 916-8800 • Protect your Social Security number (SSN). This number is the most important personal identifier, so you must make it your top priority to keep it secure. Never carry your Social Security card or any with you unless you'll need it. The same goes for other forms of identification (for example, health insurance cards) that display your SSN. If your state uses your SSN as your driver's license number, request an alternate number. Don't have your SSN preprinted on your checks, and don't let merchants write it on your checks. Don't give it out over the phone unless you initiate the call to an organization you trust. Ask the three major credit reporting agencies to truncate it on your credit reports. Try to avoid listing it on employment applications; offer instead to provide it during a job interview. • Leave it at home. If you carry your checkbook and all of your credit cards, debit cards with you all the time, which is a bad idea; if your wallet or purse is stolen, the thief will have a treasure chest of new toys to play with. Carry only the cards and/or checks you'll need for any one trip and keep a written record of all your account numbers, credit card expiration dates, and the telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud departments in a secure place--at home. • Invest in a paper shredder. Do not throw out any financial records such as credit or debit card receipts and statements, cancelled checks, or even offers for credit you receive in the mail, rather shred the documents. This will prevent would be thief’s from going through your dumpster and finding important information that will help them to steal your identity. The most important thing you can do to protect your identity is to be diligent and follow the above tips. There is much information on the subject and several tips like the ones above that can help you safeguard your identity. Be smart and you will save yourself countless hours of trying to recover your good name and credit. Because these types of crimes have become so mainstream there are also insurance policies you can purchase that can protect you from the potential headaches.
Post a Comment

Blog Archive