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Identity Theft Prevention Tips

Feb 7, 2008
The following scenario happens to millions every year. You have built up years worth of good credit history and you are shocked when you receive a call from a credit card company demanding that you pay past due accounts for purchases you didn't make.

You argue that it wasn't you but to no avail, your credit rating is damaged and it can take you years to get it back into good standing. This is the reality of the victims of identity theft.

Identity theft is a growing problem for both financial institutions and consumers alike. There are two types of identity theft; the first type occurs when a thief manages to acquire your SSN number and other pertinent information and actually opens up new accounts registered in your name. This type of theft is the more difficult one to detect as statements from the fraudulent accounts are mailed to the impostor and not you.

The second type of theft occurs when a thief gets a hold of you account information and empties as much of your money from your bank accounts as they can and rack up your credit cards as fast as they can before you find out. This type of theft is usually detected by the victim when they receive and review their monthly bank and credit card statements.

Although there is no way to prevent identity theft there are steps that you can take to make yourself less vulnerable to such attacks.

Protect access to personal Information

1. Do not carry your SSN card in your wallet unless you need it that day.

2. Do not carry any ID such as your birth certificate or passport unless it is required to do so that day.

3. Do not carry extra credit cards that you rarely use.

4. Contact credit-reporting bureaus and remove your name from their marking call lists. This will reduce the number of pre approved credit offerings that you will receive. Thieves intercept these cards in the mail, and activate them.

Restrict The Use of Your Social Security Number

Your Social Security number (SSN) should be guarded at all times. If a thief obtains this number they would gain access to all of your banking and credit card information.

1. Be wary of application forms that require your SSN. Ask if you can provide alternate information such as your driver's licence number. Find out what their policy is on guarding the information that they are requesting. If possible ask to speak with someone in charge and discuss your concerns with releasing your SSN. If they don't answer your questions to your satisfaction then avoid doing business with them.

2. Avoid carrying your SSN card with you in your wallet. Take it out of safe keeping only when you know that you are going to need it that day.

3. When using checks to make a purchase or when cashing a check do let the merchant write your SSN on the check. Once the check is out of your site anyone can copy it.

4. If possible it is best that you commit your SSN to memory.

5. Do not have your driver licence number or SSN printed on your checks.

Creating and Protecting Pins and Passwords

1. Most people use their mother's maiden name a pet's name their birth date or consecutive numbers when creating personal identification numbers (PINS). This is a common mistake as thieves are schooled in the art of finding out such information about their victims.

2. Use the first letters of the names of your favorite songs or the first initials of your favorite high school teachers, something that is easy to remember but difficult for someone to anticipate.

3. Commit your PIN number to memory. If your purse or wallet is stolen thieves are sure to find it if you have it written down inside somewhere.

4. Be sure to cover the ATM keypad with your hand to prevent someone from looking over your shoulder and prevent video cameras from being able to record your PIN.

Protecting your Credit Card Numbers

1. Never leave your credit card receipts at a business, always take them with you. Be sure to place them in your pocket or in your purse or wallet. Don't leave them in the bag and make sure they don't go into a public garbage container.

2. Keep a watchful eye on how a teller swipes your credit card. Be sure that it isn't swipe on two separate processing machines. Thieves pay dishonest store clerks to record customer credit card information on skimming machines.

3. Don't carry more credit cards than you require for that day's worth of transactions.

4. Make photocopies of you credit cards in a safe place in your home. If your credit cards are stolen you can quickly and report the numbers to the credit card companies.

5. If you are expecting a new credit card in the mail be sure to notify the credit card company if it is late arriving to you.

6. Monitor your monthly statements for any unrecognized purchases.

7. At least once year obtain a copy of your credit report.

8. Shred all credit card statements before disposing of them in your household garbage. Thieves can gain access to your garbage at the curb or at the dump.

Internet Safety

1. Only use websites that provide secure transaction protection.

2. Beware of phoney websites also known as "phishing sites" they will look as if they are from your bank or other legitimate sites such as ebay. They will send you an email requesting that you respond to them.

3. Make sure that you install a firewall to prevent intruders from entering your hard drive and stealing your credit information.

4. Make sure that you have virus protection and keep it updated to keep your information safe from be sent out in a corrupt email program.

5. When disposing of an old computer use a program specifically designed to remove all of your old files. Deleting them will not be good enough to remove them from your hard drive.
About the Author
Colin McDougall is the editor in chief for the website Crediteria.com. The site is devoted to helping consumers with all financial matters including the prevention of identity theft. Idenitity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country and you need to ensure you protect yourself starting today. Read our review of an identity theft prevention service,Lifelock
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