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Preventing Identity Theft

October 6th, 2014

Preventing Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the most common crimes in our country, and millions of people fall victim to it every year. The perpetrators behind these crimes can do a lot of damage once they get a hold of your personal information. From draining your bank account and running up credit cards, to committing crimes in your name, identity theft is serious business. You need to protect yourself from these crimes and act quickly to repair the damage if you fall victim to identity theft.Preventing Identity Theft

Engaging in some preventative practices can help to keep identity thieves at bay. The following tips for preventing identity theft will decrease your risk:
  • Leave Important Documents at Home: Birth certificates, marriage certificates, and passports should all be left at home in the safe unless you’re using them for a specific purpose. Don’t carry your social security card with you either.

  • Keep PINs Secret: Be aware of your surroundings whenever you use your debit card PIN. Don’t let over-the-shoulder bystanders get a peek. Never write your PIN down on anything you keep in your wallet.

  • Safe Postal Practices: Collect your mail promptly, so no one else can get access to it. If you’ll be out of town, arrange to have someone else collect it for you every day. Shred up unwanted mail, along with receipts and other documents.

  • Monitor Your Bank Account: Keep close track of your spending and make sure it matches up with your bank statement. Report any discrepancies immediately.

  • Keep Info Private: Don’t give out any information to anyone who you did not ask to contact you. Never respond to unsolicited requests for information online, over the phone, or by mail.

  • Safe Computer Practices: Install anti- virus and anti-theft technology on your home and work computers and tablets, and keep it updated.

  • Keep Track of Credit: Check your full credit report at least once a year to root out any problems.

Signs of Identity Theft One of the most damaging aspects of identity theft is that it can continue on for some time without your knowledge. The following examples are red flags for identity theft:
  • Unexplainable activity in your bank account, such as withdrawals

  • Bills or other items don’t come in the mail

  • Your checks, debit cards or credit cards are declined by merchants

  • You receive debt collection calls regarding debts that aren’t yours

  • There are unfamiliar accounts or inquiries on your credit report

  • You receive medical bills for services you didn’t receive, or your provider informs you that you’ve reached your benefits limit when you haven’t used your coverage

  • You are contacted by the IRS about filing more than one tax return, or about income from an employer you don’t work for

  • You are notified from a company you do business with that they have had a breech in information security

Repairing Identity Theft

If you discover that you’ve become a victim of identity theft, it’s important that you take action immediately to begin repairing the problem. The Federal Trade Commission recommends that you begin with the following actions:
  • Place an initial fraud report

  • Order your credit reports

  • Create an identity theft report

See more about follow up actions here.

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