9 Tips to help prevent identity theft

9 Tips to help protect you from identity theft

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Written by: Brian McMaster

Don't be a statistic!

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics regarding identity theft cases reported by persons in 2008 —

  • An estimated 11.7 million persons, representing 5% of persons age 16 or older in the United States, experienced at least one attempted or successful incident of identity theft during a within 2-year period.
  • Unauthorized use or attempted use of an existing credit card account, the most prevalent type of identity theft, was experienced by about 6.2 million victims (53% of all victims).
  • Although the total financial cost of identity theft was nearly $17.3 billion over a 2-year period, less than a quarter (23%) of victims suffered an out-of-pocket financial loss from the victimization.
  • About 42% of victims spent one day or less resolving any financial or credit problems related to the identity theft.
  • Two in 10 victims of identity theft rated the experience as severely distressing.

Here are 9 tips to protect your family from this preventable crime

1. Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails

If you get an email that looks like it’s from a bank, credit card company, PayPal or other financial service, think before you click any links. Are they saying your account or card has been deactivated, and they need you to login to “verify” your personal information? That’s a common scam called phishing. The link will take you to a rogue website that may look like a real login page, but is designed to hand over your account and personal information to thieves.

2. Don’t give out your information to just anyone

You need to provide your personal information when you’re applying for a job, applying for a loan or opening a new financial account. If someone else is asking for your information, find out why before you even consider handing it over. And never give your information out to a person who calls you on the telephone, no matter who they claim to be.

3. Don’t implicitly trust Caller ID

With modern digital phone services, Caller ID can be manipulated to say just about anything. If they’re calling you and asking for nonpublic personal information, you could be looking at a scam.

4. Don’t carry your Social Security card with you

Look in your wallet or purse right now. Is your Social Security card in there? Get it out and put it in a lockbox or other secure location right now.

5. Don’t leave personal information unsecured

In 25% of identity theft cases, the victims know the person who stole their identity. Don’t leave personal information lying around, at home or at work.

6. Shred your information

It’s easy to forget that a lot of identity theft begins with dumpster diving and trash picking. Have your material shredded by a NAID certified company.  Shredded material from a home shredder is relatively easy to put back together. There's even a service that scans shred for the purpose of putting it back together. If your shred is simply thrown out in the trash, you have just made it "easy picking" for the dumpster divers.

7. Check your credit report

Check your credit report at each of the three major reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and follow the instructions. Since the reports should all have the same information, it’s a good idea to stagger them—get TransUnion in January, Experian in May and Equifax in September, for example. Report any errors immediately.

8. Install virus protection on your computer

Norton, Kaspersky, McAfee: they’re all good, so pick one and use it. They cost money to buy, and you will have to pay annually to keep your software updated. I know, money doesn’t grow on trees, but spyware, viruses and keyloggers apparently do—you can’t afford not to have up-to-date virus protection software.

9. Educate yourself

Pay attention to news articles about fraud and identity theft. If you’ve got a question about something, research it online. Sign up for the Crown Shredding newsletter, or Friend us on Facebook, or visit our web page for current updates and articleswww.crownshredding.com

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