Since identity theft is an alarming reality, it’s up to each and every one of us to take steps to try to avoid being a victim of this crime. Here are some tips on how to make identity theft more difficult for would-be thieves:
- Never keep your social security card in your wallet or write the number on your checks.
- Keep your ATM pin number secret. Never write it on your credit cards or a piece of paper.
- When using an ATM, make sure there's no one looking over your shoulder. If there is someone close to you, cover the keypad with your hand.
- Be careful when choosing what mail to throw away. Always shred documents that contain your personal information.
- If you are going on a trip, ask your USPS office to keep your mail until you return.
- Keep a calendar with the dates of when you expect to receive invoices. If you miss any, immediately call the owner of that account because the invoice might have been stolen.
- Save all your receipts, including the ones from ATMs.
- Your personal information is secret. Keep it safe, both in your home and at work.
- If you receive unsolicited offers by phone, mail or email (such as new credit cards, cell phones or if they tell you that you won something) do not respond to any questions about your personal information.
- Immediately report the loss or theft of your credit or debit cards.
- Cancel all inactive credit card accounts. Even when not in use, these accounts appear on your credit report.
- If you requested a credit card and have not received it in a reasonable time period, notify the corresponding financial institution as soon as possible.
- Follow the expiration dates of your credit or debit cards closely. Contact the issuing institution if you do not receive the replacement card.
- Do not sign your cards. Write the instruction “Verify ID” instead. That way, the merchant should always ask for a second ID to approve the transaction.
- If you have a personal computer, install a firewall as well as anti-virus software.
- Update your computer, smart phone and tablet software regularly.
- Use password protection.
- If using a website for personal transactions, make sure you are using a protected WIFI connection. They usually have a lock icon and make reference to the terms WPA or WEP.
- Request a copy of your credit report once a year. Check it more frequently if you believe that someone has gained access to your banking information.
These steps will help you to prevent identity theft in the future. If you believe that your identity has already been stolen, there are steps you can take that show you how to get your identity back.
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