Protect yourself against identity theft
12 Sep, 2012 by Officer Kristie Brian
Identity theft is the number one growing crime in America. Educating yourself on what to do to keep your identity safe is the first step in keeping your personal information safe and out of the hands of criminals. Identity theft occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can lead to years of headache trying to reclaim your personal information, clear your credit of fraudulent purchases, and not to mention the worry over what else might be out there. The following are tips on how to safeguard your personal information.
- Shred financial documents, or any other document, which contains your name.
- Protect your Social Security number. Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Carry it with you only if absolutely necessary. Never give it out to anyone unless you are the one initiating the contact.
- Never give out personal information over the phone, especially when solicited by a salesperson, someone offering you compensation for something, or a sweepstakes.
- Never click on links from unsolicited emails. If you receive an email from your financial intuition or a lender call to verify they sent an email to you.
- Never use obvious passwords such as your birthday, last four digits of your Social Security number, phone number, etc.
- Keep your personal information in a secure place at home.
- Never leave your purse or other items such as mail, laptops, etc. which may contain your personal information in your vehicle.
- If live in a rural area don’t put your bill payments in the mail box. Take them to a U.S. Postal Service drop box or post office. Many times thieves steal mail out of the mailbox prior to pickup by the postal worker.
If you suspect that your personal information may have been stolen, even if it has not been used yet, there are steps that can be taken to minimize the damage that may have already been done.
- Be alert to bills that do not arrive as expected.
- Unexpected bills, such as credit cards, you have not applied for.
- Denial of credit for no apparent reason.
- Calls from unknown creditors.
- Unauthorized charges.
- Inspect your credit report at least yearly. By law you can receive a credit report from the 3 major companies once a year at no charge.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report if you have been a victim.
- Contact the security or fraud department of the company where your information was fraudulently used.
- File a police report. No matter how small the amounts may be, or the thief has not used your information at the time, file a police report. This could ensure the thief is caught and most companies require a police report before they will take action on identity theft.
To correct errors on your credit report visit: ftc.gov/idtheft
To request a copy of your credit report contact: