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Helpful Tips

Identity Theft

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What is Identity Theft

This occurs when someone takes a piece of your personal information without your knowledge, such as your bank and credit card account numbers, your Social Security number (SSN), and your name, address, and phone numbers, then uses it to commit fraud



theft. An-all-too common example is when an identity thief uses your personal information to open a credit card account in your name.

Can you prevent identity theft entirely? Probably not, especially if someone is determined to commit the crime. But you can minimize your risk by managing your personal information wisely and cautiously, with an awareness of the issue. Guard against identity theft in these ways:


 Before you reveal any personally-identifying information, find out how it will be used and whether it will be shared with others. Ask if you have a choice about the use of your information. Can you choose to have it kept confidential?


 Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bills don't arrive on time. A missing credit card bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your credit card account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.


 Guard your mail from theft. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after it's been delivered. If you're planning to be away from home and can't pick up your mail, call the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 to request a vacation hold. The Postal Service will hold your mail at your local post office until you can pick it up.


 Put passwords on your credit card, bank, and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN, your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.


 Minimize the identification information and the number of cards you carry to what you'll actually need.


 Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you've initiated the contact or know who you're dealing with. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of banks, Internet service providers, and even government agencies to get you to reveal your SSN, mother's maiden name, financial account numbers, and other identifying information. Legitimate organizations with which you do business have the information they need and will not ask for it.


 Keep items with personal information in a safe place. To thwart an identity thief who may pick through your trash or recycling bins to capture your personal information, tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, bank checks and statements you're discarding, expired charge cards, and credit offers you get in the mail.


 Be cautious about where you leave personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having service work done in your home.


 Find out who has access to your personal information at work and verify that the records are kept in a secure location.


 Give your SSN only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible.


 Don't carry your SSN card; leave it in a secure place.


Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies every year. Check to see whether any additional accounts were opened without your consent or whether unauthorized charges were billed to your accounts. To request copies of your credit reports call: Experian 888-397-3742 Equifax 800-685-1111 Trans Union 800-916-8800


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