Friday, August 10, 2007

20 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft is huge these days. Whether from crackheads needing to fund their next fix, online scams originating from Africa or comprehensive rings with the sole purpose of divesting your from your hard earned-money and equally hard-earned credit rating, there is a good chance that you could end up a victim no matter how smart or well-educated you are. Here are a bunch of tips to keep yourself protected:
  1. Carry only one or at the most two credit cards in your wallet.
  2. Keep your other credit cards, cash and valuables locked up in a safe at your home or off-site in a safe deposit box.
  3. Reduce the number of credit cards you have. There is basically no need for 20 credit cards--this only increases the number of cards you need to keep track of.
  4. Keep a list of all of your creditors along with account numbers and company contact information. This list should be kept in a safe place as well as in a password-protected file on your computer and back-up jump drive.
  5. Shred any mail or other documents that you no longer need if they have any of your personal information on it.
  6. Have a locked mailbox or use a post office box to secure your incoming mail.
  7. Leave all of your outgoing mail in a locked mail drop box or at the post office.
  8. Review your monthly credit card and bank statements; challenge any innacuracies immediatly.
  9. Never give any personal information out (either on the phone, through email or in person) unless you have instigated the process that requires the information (ie: opened an EBay account, applied for a loan, etc).
  10. Get a copy of your free annual credit report and review it annually; challenge any discrepencies immediatly.
  11. Limit the amount of personal information available to steal (ie: don't carry your social security card, keep your passport in your immediate possession or under lock and key, don't carry bank or credit card statements around with you or leave them laying on a counter at home).
  12. If your credit card bills are late or you receive a bill in your name for an account that you know nothing about, contact the creditor immediatly.
  13. Report any instances of fraud or attempted fraud immediatly. If you see someone stealing mail or someone hacks your PayPal account, notify the authorities immediatly and file a report.
  14. After a credit transaction, take your recipt home and shred it or watch the waiter shred it, don't just leave it behind.
  15. Sign any new credit cards as soon as you receive them.
  16. Never co-sign for a loan, loan a friend your ATM card, or give anyone a blank check--those sorts of things are just asking for trouble.
  17. Put yourself on the "do not call" list and opt out of junk mail as well.
  18. Request an alternative number if your insurance company or driver's license uses this number for identification purposes.
  19. If you do apply for a new credit card or loan, make sure to follow up if you do not receive a response within an adequate amount of time.
  20. Use strong passowords for anything that requires one (ATM and credit cards, online passwords, etc).

Identity Theft Resources

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