Monday, August 1, 2016

Steps to take that help reduce identity theft

Identify theft is the stealing of someone’s personal identification information to commit a crime. You can never fully prevent identity theft, no matter how cautious you are, but you can minimize the risk of becoming a victim by taking steps to improve the security of your personal data.
Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses are two commonly misused forms of identification. Cards such as medicare cards that use a person’s Social Security number are also used for fraudulent purposes. Identity theft can occur via hacked databases, stolen wallets, stolen mail, rummaging through garbage for information, crooks fraudulently pretexting to obtain a victim’s data and unsupervised access to information in a person’s home.
Identity theft can result in both monetary and non-monetary harm. Some examples of non-monetary harm are times spent trying to resolve credit problems, lost productivity at work and emotional distress. Below are some steps that cost little or nothing to reduce the risk of identity theft.
• Shred sensitive data — Shred documents with identifying information such as bank account statements, credit card receipts. A diamond-cut shredder is better than a straight-line shredder.
• Guard your mail — Deposit outgoing mail in collection boxes at the post office, not in unsecured receptacles or open rural route mailboxes. Promptly remove mail from mailboxes as soon as possible.
• Be wary of “cold callers” — Never give personal information over the phone to unknown individuals who call you wanting to “verify numbers” or “check balances.”
• Travel light — Empty your wallet/purse of excess credit cards (carry one or two) and only carry around a passport or Medicare card when you need it.
• Check your credit report — Order a free report once a year from the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Review it carefully for evidence of identity theft such as fraudulent accounts and charges.
• Check billing statements — Save credit card receipts and match them against monthly bills. Look for evidence of identity theft such as unauthorized charges.
• Password protect your devices — Lock down your computer and cell phone. Follow the instructions for your particular make and model. For example, “Settings,” “Tools,” “Security” and “Lock Mode.”
• Use gel pens for check writing — Gel pens eliminate the potential for identity thieves to “wash” checks by erasing the ink and re-writing a “blank” check for a fraudulent purpose.
• Control your credit card — Avoid handing credit cards to others to swipe outside your view. They could use a skimming machine or cell phone camera to record your data.