An estimated 11 million Americans discovered that they were victims of some form of identity theft last year. Everyone is susceptible to identity theft; the young or old, rich or poor, even minors. Here are some important tips and facts about identity theft so you can avoid becoming a victim.
1. Thieves do not need your credit card to steal your identity. Thieves need only one piece of information about you like your social security or birthdate. Then they have what they need. Don’t give out your social security number on the phone or internet unless you have an existing relationship with that person or business.
2. A thief can easily obtain personal information about you online. Nonfinancial information is easily accessible on social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin. Be careful and think twice before you list your address and/or birthdate on your social networking profiles.
3. Watch your monthly bills and make sure you receive your credit card statements and ordered checks. Identity thieves can intercept credit card bills to change the billing address. They can rack up a lot of charges on your credit card and write checks before you realize it is stolen.
4. Review your bank and credit card statements carefully for small charges. Thieves will test out the account by charging a small amount before making a large purchase. Fraud alerts are generally not activated by purchases under a certain dollar amount.
5. Review your credit report regularly. You are entitled to ONE FREE COPY of each of your three credit reports every twelve (12) months by accessing this website: www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling: 1-877-322-8228.
6. If an ATM does not look right, do not use it. If the card feels differently after you swipe it or the machine looks unusual, avoid the machine or immediately cancel the transaction. There could be a credit card skimmer that will capture your information attached to the ATM.
7. Identity thieves can be sneaky, so you need to be sneaky too. For example, sign your name on the back of your credit card with a Sharpie so it can’t be erased. Watch for others in line behind you trying to look over your shoulder.
8. Pay attention when you pay with a credit card. Watch the cashier take the card through the process if you can. Make sure that they are not swiping the card through another reading device. If the purchase seems suspicious in any way, check your statements for unusual activity.
9. Go paperless and become friendly with the shredder. If possible, get your monthly financial statements and bills sent to you electronically. Invest in a shredder and shred all documents that contain personal and financial information.
10. To learn more about protecting your identity, contact my office for a free copy of our Identity Theft Kit. /blog/2011 10/11/identity-theft-kit/