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9 steps to protect yourself from identity fraud

This is truly the information age and the need to convey information is constantly growing. Internet shopping is expanding rapidly, as is the concept of online banking, credit cards and financial sites such as PayPal. With this increase in sending financial information over the World Wide Web, it’s no wonder we’ve also seen an increase in fraud and identity theft. Information about individuals, including personal, employment, and credit information, can be easily accessed by anyone who has access to only some of your personal information. Most of that information comes from bank and credit card statements and other mail, both email and postal, that you download without worrying.

It’s time to go on the offensive and decrease your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft. The harder it is for a thief to steal his identity, the less likely it is to happen to you; more often than not, if it’s too difficult, the thief will move on to someone less suspicious who has done little to protect his identity.

There are some steps you can take to help lower your chances of having your identity stolen. While these few things won’t guarantee your safety from criminals, they will help determine them, hopefully enough for them to move on to the next person.

  1. Buy a shredder. Shredders are not expensive and can be purchased for less than $20 in most cases. You should shred anything that contains personal information, including bills, receipts, bank statements, credit card bills, phone bills, etc. This discourages people from getting your information out of your dump, and yes, it happens often. If you’re not sure if a piece of paper could be used to steal your identity, shred it. All aspects of the information must be shredded before being thrown away.
  2. Protect your PIN number at the ATM. If there are people around you when you are entering your PIN and you feel they are too close, ask them to back away. Your PIN is the key to your bank account; anyone with that key can steal the money from your account. You should also look at the ATM before you enter your card or PIN. Look for surveillance cameras pointed at the pin pad and card readers that sit over the actual ATM card reader. Sometimes it’s hard to spot, but if you think something is wrong, walk away and tell the bank.
  3. Be on the lookout for hidden cameras in places where you submit information, such as your credit card number, PIN number at a store, etc. These cameras should never be pointed at or near a PIN pad, and if you fear they are pointed in that direction, leave the store without making a purchase, pay cash, or shield the input entirely with your body.
  4. Don’t send checks in the mail – these are landmines of personal and financial information. If you need to mail a check, put it in a secure envelope and drop it off at the post office instead of a corner mail slot. If you are receiving checks, request that they be sent to you by courier or certified mail.
  5. Print a list of your credit card numbers, passwords, usernames, and account numbers and keep them in a safe place, like in your safe deposit box or in a locked box or safe in your home.
  6. Never save information or the list as mentioned above on your computer in ANY format.
  7. On the back of your credit cards, write “Request to see my ID.” Many employees treat a credit card like cash and do not verify the identity of the person using the card. If they don’t ask, let them know they should and ask why they didn’t.
  8. If you move, register your new address with the post office and immediately call all your subscriptions, banks, credit cards, and accounts that have a new mailing address.
  9. Do not carry unnecessary things with you, such as your SSN card, credit cards that you will not need, checks, etc. Take one or two checks with you and the credit card you’ll be using, but none of the others. Keep your SSN card and cards you don’t use regularly locked up in a safe deposit box or safe at home or at your bank.

Protect your information with your life: It is vital that you protect your own identity at all times. Be attentive!

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