There are certain steps you need to take to protect yourself from identity theft. It is stated that every 3 seconds someone suffers from this. Taking precautions can help protect yourself and help you not be one of the many that has to go through this horrible ordeal.
The United States Government has put into affect a new law to help protect people from having your identity stolen. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act, also known as FACTA, helps prevent all U.S. consumers from being treated unfairly when dealing with opening credit accounts or getting approval for home loans. Under this law, you are guaranteed to receive a free credit report once a year from each of the three credit bureaus. It is recommended that you do request yours once a year to check for any discrepancies that may exist.
Identity theft can occur in many different ways. In all instances a person, other than yourself, gets your private information and takes it upon themselves to pretend to be you in order to apply for credit cards, rent an apartment, buy a car, open a bank account, or so on. It is considered identity theft if they use your social security number as their own also. It is very important to keep your social security number in a safe place and never write it down on a piece of paper that could get thrown in the garbage.
Taking precautions to protect yourself will not guarantee you will never be victimized, but it does help to lower the risk that it will happen. If it does happen, with your precautions in place, you will know sooner than someone who never thinks about it. They may not know anything is amiss until they go to apply for credit for something themselves and then it comes as a big surprise.
I have put together a list of the 14 main things you can do to help protect yourself from identity theft. I hope you find this useful. If you follow these steps, you will get a tighter hold on your security and will help you to breathe a bit easier.
- Be aware of your identity and who you share your personal information with. Understand that fraud can happen any time and at any place!
- Be made aware of the procedures put in place where you frequent the most. Ie: your place of employment, your physician’s office. Make sure you know who is handling your personal information. Each place should have a security protocol put in place. If not, do not give them your personal information! Make sure that they shred documents correctly and that information is not shared or sold to third parties.
- Always ask if another form of identification can be used in place of your social security number. In most cases, other forms will be accepted. Only under safe extenuating circumstances should you give out your number. The less people who have it, the less chance you will become a victim.
The Federal Trade Commission states that, “Your chance of becoming victimized by some form of identity theft is one in ten.”
- Immediately upon finding out that you have become a victim, contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint. They keep an identity database in case of fraud and it is used by the police departments for investigations. Once you have filed your complaint, they can better help you to rectify the situation and this also gives them more information on how criminals are working these days to help others in need.
- Never have all your credit cards and social security card in your wallet all the time! Your social security card should be kept in a safe place and never carried on you! Only carry the cards that you are going to use in your wallet. Leave the others in your safe place with your social security card.
- When in doubt, Don’t! Most valid companies will not call you and ask for your personal information over the phone, through the mail, or through an email. Always double check to make sure you are dealing with a legitimate business before giving any information. If you receive an email, do not respond through it. Open a new window and type the business’ address into your web bar. Make sure they are the ones that requested the information from you. If someone calls you asking for information, you can always hang up and call their main number to check before giving them what they ask for. A legitimate business will not mind you taking this action.Keep in mind that a lot of frauds will pretend to be associates with your bank, lottery winnings department, sweepstakes entry reps, internet providers, or some other official type of person that you would usually be willing to let your guard down with. They have numerous ways of trying to get you to give them your personal information. Always be on your guard.
- Always double check and call the phone number found on your bill or the company’s main phone number listed in your yellow pages. Never assume it is just an outgoing line from the company.
- Putting passwords on your bank account, credit card accounts, or phone accounts is a no-no. Passwords are easily figured out. Protect yourself and stay away from doing this even though it is an easy way to access your information.
- If you do decide to use a password, make it something that only you can remember. Do not use names of family members, dates of births, addresses, numbers from your social security card, parts of your phone number. Try to use both numbers and letters for your passwords. Capitalize in odd places when allowed. Most passwords are case sensitive.
- Keep track of the time of month that you receive your bills. If you do not receive a bill that you know comes at a certain time of the month, this could be a sign that someone has gotten your information. Check with your company to see if there was a delay in mailing out the bills.
The Federal Trade Commission states that, “9.9 million people were victims of identity theft in 2002.”
- If something sounds too good to be true, it is. Don’t be taken in by phone calls or mailings stating that you have won a sweepstakes or a lottery that you have never heard of. If you have never heard of it, you did not win anything. Never believe you are going to receive winnings from this. This is just another clever way for criminals to try to get your personal information or in some cases, your money. If they are asking for a “administration fee”, it is not legit. Don’t fall for these fakes.
- If your place of employment requires you to change into special uniforms for your job, never leave your purse or wallet or any pertinent personal information in your clothing or your locker. This is not safe to do. Leave them at home or in another safe place. Lockers are not considered safe. Too many times someone can break into them and your work place will not take accountability for this and by this time, it is too late and someone has your info.
- Always use the safest way of reordering your checks. The safest way may not always be the most convenient way for you, but in the long run, it can save you some grief. It is best to not have personal items such as reordered checks sent to your mailbox. These are easily distinguished and easily taken out of your mailbox while you are at work.
- Always take advantage of your annual free credit report!
Here is the contact information for the credit bureaus. I cannot emphasize enough about staying current in what is on your credit report:
- Equifax - P.O. Box 740241 – Atlanta, Georgia 30374-0241
- FOR FRAUD ALERTS, CALL 1-800-525-6285
- Trans Union- P.O. Box 1000, Chester, Pennsylvania 19022
- FOR FRAUD ALERTS, CALL 1-800-680-7289
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