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Highlighting Identity Theft Awareness
Posted: November 24, 2010

Identity theft is a serious problem in today’s electronic environment. Each individual should be aware of the dangers of identify theft as well as precautionary measures that can be taken to lessen the opportunity for his/her identify to be misused. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft occurs when your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information is used without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Instances of identity theft continue to increase and are now over the ten million mark on an annual basis. Here are some tips from identity theft pros on how to foil their efforts!

  1. Watch your back. While In line at the grocery store, an identity thief might hold his/her phone as if checking it, while instead he/she is taking a picture of your card.
  2. That red flag tells the mail carrier - and an identity thief - that you have outgoing mail. The red flag on the mailbox advertises the possibility of credit card numbers and checks that can be reproduced!
  3. Check your bank and credit card balances at least once a week. A lot of damage can be done by an identity thief in the 30 days between statements.
  4. Be alert to billing dates. If a bill doesn’t show up when it is supposed to, do not breathe a sigh of relief. Start to wonder if your mail has been stolen.
  5. Do not set your garbage bags out the night before. Identity thieves often drive through neighborhoods during the early hours of the morning when they can easily fill their trunks with bags of garbage from different houses, then sort it later. Even with technology, most information is stolen the old-fashioned way – from your garbage or from your mail!
  6. Shred appropriately. Identity thieves can use preapproved credit card applications, old bills, expired credit cards, checking account deposit slips, and crumpled-up job or loan applications to obtain your personal information.
  7. If you see something that looks like it doesn’t belong on the ATM or sticks out from the card slot, walk away. It could be a skimmer attached by an identity thief to capture your card information and PIN.
  8. Stop banks from sending preapproved credit offers. Call 888-5-OPTOUT.
  9. Use credit cards with your picture on them. Identity thieves do not want the extra hassle. (Also, American Express credit cards are the least favorite of identity thieves, because they require a zip code to use.)
  10. Use credit cards rather than debit cards. Retail databases are often the target of hackers. Once the information from a retail database is obtained, a thief has easy access to your bank account.
  11. Do not put your social security number or your health insurance account number on your checks. Identity thieves know that some checks contain this information and are on the lookout for these types of numbers.
  12. Use only secure Wi-Fi connections. Identity thieves use software that can scoop up all the data your computer transmits on an unsecured connection, including your passwords and other sensitive information.
  13. Do not keep your account pin number on a slip of paper in your wallet. If your wallet is stolen, the thief will feel as if he/she has won the lottery!

 An abundance of information is available on various web sites to inform and assist consumers concerning identity theft. The following link from the Broward County (Florida) Consumer web site provides a comprehensive review of how to handle an identity theft incident.

(Article adapted from 13 Things An Identity Thief Won’t Tell You - Former nidentity thieves confess the tactics they use to scam you. Reader’s Digest - September 2010)

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