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Internet Family Fun Home > What You Want to Know About... > Identity Theft

Avoid Identity Theft - Tips to Keep Your Personal Information Private

Identity theft is a problem that is out of control. The FTC and states are working to stop identity theft but at this point it is up to you to be diligent about protecting your individual identity so you won't become a victim.

Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

  • Online - Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
  • Mail - Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
    • Don't leave mail sitting in your mailbox - collect it promptly.
    • If you are going away, contact your post office to have mail held.
    • Buy a locked mail box or use a post office box if you think mail could be easily stolen.
  • Using Credit Cards - Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
    • While waiting in line, if you take your credit card out, be sure to cover the number so no one can see the number, write it down and order stuff with it.
    • Check to be sure that the cashier isn't double swiping the card to obtain the number for his or her own use.
    • If you order over the phone be sure no one in the room can hear you giving the credit card number.
    • Thank the cashier for comparing signatures on the sales slip and credit card. If stores and cashiers realize that this is important to customers perhaps they will be more diligent.
    • Instead of signing the back of your credit card, write down "See ID" so cashiers will ask for your picture ID.
  • Garbage - Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
    • Buy a shredder and shred any documents that contain personal information including but not limited to bank statements, credit reports, credit card offers, shopping catalogs that you have an account with, insurance papers, etc. Bottom line - your best bet is that if it has your name on it - shred it and dispose of the scraps of paper carefully.
  • Credit Bureaus - Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
    • You should check your credit report at least once a year from the 3 major credit bureaus. You can do this for free.
    • Ask for a flag on your credit accounts. By doing this you will be alerted if anyone (including you) tries to obtain new credit.
  • Important Papers - Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
    • Don't carry social security numbers in your purse or wallet.
    • Be sure to keep purses and wallets either with you at all times or locked up in a secure location at work.
    • Buy a fireproof, lockable safe for your home to keep these important papers.
  • With Businesses - Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
    • Be careful who you give your social security number to. Businesses will often ask for it on applications to rent videos or saver cards but businesses don't need it unless you are applying for credit. Remember even if you trust the store itself, their employees will be able to see your social security number along with your name and address.
    • Try to avoid using your mother's maiden name as a password for bank accounts and other business accounts. It is too easy to find out what it is. Instead use a pin number.
    • Be careful when using an ATM. Be sure to block the view while you enter your pin number.
    • Guard receipts (especially credit card receipts) and be sure they don't fall out of your purse.
    • If you get a call from a telemarketer, do not give out any information. If you really want the item they are selling, buy it online or at a store.
    • Opt-out of having pre-approved credit offers sent to you for two years by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688).

Following these tips and being careful about giving out information can protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft. There are also reputable professional services available to protect you from identity theft and fraud protection, where services rendered include automatically opting out of all pre-approved credit card mail and evaluating potentially fraudulent forms designed to capture personal information.

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