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Helpful Tips to Protect Against Identity Theft

Identity theft has been on the rise over the last ten years. What can a person do to help protect their personal identity? Here are some helpful tips that can minimize your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.

• Keep your social security number secure and don’t give out unless absolutely necessary. Don’t carry your social security number with you, keep it at home in a secure location.
• Don’t give out personal information over the phone, mail, or internet unless you initiated the contact.
• Store personal information in a secure place at home.
• Pickup your mail as soon possible after it is delivered. Always mail items at the US Post Office or a collection box, not in your mail box on the curb for a postal worker to pickup. (This creates a high risk for items to be taken from your mail box)
• When leaving town a hold on mail delivery until you return.
• Know the billing cycles of your creditors and contact them if you don’t receive bills.
• Review all of your bank statements, credit card statements, and other bills monthly to insure that charges look correct. If there are unfamiliar charges contact your financial institution or creditor.
• Review credit reports at least annually. (You can request a free credit report once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com
• Shred old documents before throwing them. Example: bank statements, credit card bills, utility bills, preapproved credit card offers, etc. (Even using scissors is better than just throwing them out.)
• Have strong passwords on personal accounts such as financial accounts, email accounts, social network accounts, etc. Include upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols to create stronger passwords.
• Also strong passwords on phones will help protect your personal data.
• Use firewall, Anti-virus, and other protective software to help protect your information.
• Before sell or discarding a computer destroy the hard drive.
• Never carry passwords with you, as doing such is risky. IF you have written passwords down, keep in a secure location at home.
• When using ATMs or Pin pads, protect your PIN from prying eyes.
• When using the internet look in the browser bar to make sure that there is a lock icon- insuring that it is a secure website.
• Don’t give out your credit card information on the internet unless it is encrypted on a secure site.
• Minimize the number credit cards that you carry. Carry only what is necessary.
• Cancel credit cards that you haven’t been using.
• When traveling use credit cards or traveler’s checks instead of personal checks.

The acronym SHRED is a helpful reminder of a few basic tips that can help protect your identity.

• Strengthen passwords: Use upper and lower case letters, symbols, and numbers at least 8 characters long.
• Handle personal information with care: Don’t give out information unless absolutely necessary and you have initiated it.
• Read credit reports annually: Access a free credit report at: AnnualCreditReport.com
• Empty your purse or wallet: Only carry necessary items with you.
• Discuss tips with friends: Share your knowledge about identity protection with others.
(SHRED information was found on the following link: http://www.idtheftcenter.org/Protect-yourself/id-theft-prevention-tips.html)

Tips for Reporting Identity Theft:

• Act as soon as you discover a problem.
• Contact the local police and get a report filed. Creditors will require a case number to move forward with the fraud claims. You will need to provide copies of documents regarding fraudulent issues.
• Keep a record of all documentations, emails, or conversations.
• When sending information always keep the originals and mail the copies of whatever information you are sending.
• Report Identity Theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Contact number is 877-438-4338 (877-IDTHEFT) Fill out a Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Affidavit and get it notarized. (Copy of the Affidavit can be found at: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/mifrosites/idtheft )
• If your banking or credit card accounts have been compromised, close them immediately.
• Contact the Fraud Department at your Financial Institutions.
• Contact Credit Reporting Agencies. The credit reporting agencies will flag your account. This will tell creditors they need to verify identity before issuing you credit. Fraud alert can be placed on accounts for up to seven years. Phone numbers for agencies are: Equifax 800-525-6285, Experian 888-397-3742, TransUnion 800-680-7289.
• Notify creditors immediately when an issue arises. This will reduce your liability and will help put steps in place to protect you.
• Contact the Social Security Administration Fraud line 800-269-0271
• Contact the United States Post Office. Your local office can point you in the right direction and process to undertake.
• Contact the Internal Revenue Service 800-829-0433
• Be persistent. Changes will only happen if you are persistent to improve the situation.

(Information on tips for reporting identify theft from the National Crime Prevention Council –Link to pamphlet is: http://www.ncpc.org/topics/fraud-and-identity-theft/identity-smart )

Resourceful links for more information on protecting your identity.
Identity Theft Resource Center- This website had additional links at the bottom for a variety of items concerning protection tips for different topics regarding keep your identity safe.
http://www.idtheftcenter.org/Protect-yourself/id-theft-prevention-tips.html

National Crime Prevention Council
http://www.ncpc.org/topics/fraud-and-identity-theft/tips-to-prevent-identity-theftUSA.gov
https://www.usa.gov/identity-theft
Federal Trade Commission
http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feat-identity-theft
https://www.identitytheft.gov/ (Recovering from Identity Theft)

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January 8, 2016

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