How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft: Keep Your Personal Information Safe
Your identity is the key to your life and especially your personal finances. Here are some helpful suggestions that explain how you can help protect your identity:
First, don’t include your social security number or driver’s license number on sensitive documents. Ask if it is truly required and always push back. Some businesses, doctor’s offices, and other companies collect social security numbers, but don’t have a good reason for doing so. This puts your SSN at risk. Also, don’t leave incoming mail in your mailbox, or near your front door. This provides thieves will an easy way to grab your mail, which may contain personally identifiable information.
Drop your mail in an official postal mailbox. Some thieves setup fake mailboxes to collect mail and personal information from unsuspecting people. Take your mail directly to the post office, if possible. Always be sure to shred or destroy any junk mail before you throw it away. Identity thieves use a technique called “dumpster diving” which involves sifting through trash to find sensitive documents.
Always personally review your personal credit report at least once a year. Become familiar with all of the accounts on your report. This will help you recognize items that don’t belong. For more information about ordering free credit reports, go to www.Annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228
If criminals steal your bank account checks, this could lead to major financial problems. Here are several ways to help prevent check fraud:
- Have payments such as paychecks, social security payments, alimony payments, etc. deposited in your bank account via direct deposit.
- Be on the lookout for check scams that promise you can make easy money for working from home, winning sweepstakes or depositing checks from foreign countries
- If you notice that checks have been stolen, or even if you lost them, be sure to report it to your bank immediately
- If your bank account has been compromised by a thief, the safest thing to do is work with your bank to close the account and open a new one. This prevents the thief from continuing to write checks and make withdrawals against the account.
- Report the incident to check verification companies – Telecheck 800-710-9898, and Certegy 800-437-5120
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