Sunday, February 13, 2011

Prevent Identity Theft - Protecting Your Credit

Stop Identity Theft
Every day you do many things that can put your personal information at risk, though you may never thinking twice about it. How many times have you written a check at the store or given your credit card information over the phone?

What Is Identity Theft

Identity theft happens when a perpetrator assumes someone's identity for personal or financial gain, like stealing a credit card to make financial transactions in the victim's name. This is one of the fastest growing crimes in American with an estimated 11 million people having their identity stolen every year.

How To Prevent Identity Theft

1. Don't give out your personal information unless you initiated the contact or know the person or company with whom you are dealing. Also, never give out personal information, such as a Social Security number or bank account number, in response to an email. Legitimate businesses will never ask you to do this.

2. Don't give out your credit card number when ordering online unless it's encrypted and the site is secure. Look at the first part of the Web address on your browser to be sure it starts off with "https://."

3. Never write your Social Security number, driver's license number, or telephone number on checks or credit card receipts.

4. If you need to have your computer repaired or if you choose to sell or donate it, be sure to remove all documents with personal information from your hard drive beforehand.

5. When throwing away letters, statements and receipts, be sure to shred them first. This includes pre-approved credit card applications, store receipts and utility bills. "Dumpster divers" can get a hold of your personal information if these items are thrown in the trash.

6. Cancel all credit cards that you haven't used in the last six months. Open credit is a prime target for thieves.

7. Order your credit report at least twice a year from all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) and report any mistakes to the credit reporting agency in writing.

Report Identity Theft 

If you're a victim of identity theft, contact your local police department as soon as possible. If your identity was stolen in one jurisdiction but used in another, you may have to report the crime in both jurisdictions.  Also, be sure to contact your credit card companies and bank.

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