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Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft by Mary Whitaker.

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1 Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft by Mary Whitaker

2 Identity (ID) Theft Identity theft is a very serious matter. Consequently, it is the fastest growing crime in the United States. This offense can have a devastating affect on lives, and is time consuming and costly to reverse. It is our hope to enlighten and offer information you can use to prevent this from happening to you.

3 COMMON WAYS Identity (ID) Theft Happens First, identify the various methods thieves use to steal your personal information. Dumpster Diving – is where perpetrators rummage through trash looking for bills or other papers with your personal information on it. Skimming - stealing credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card. Changing Your Address – they do this to divert your billing statements to another location by completing a "change of address" form. "Old-Fashioned" Stealing - is where thieves steal wallets and purses, and use the contents therein to commit ID theft crimes.

4 Safe Guard Take precautions by following these simple guidelines such as knowing the three D’s of prevention: deter, detect, and defend. D Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your information. For example, do not dispose of mail that has your name, address, account numbers, social security numbers on them (household bills, banking statements, junk mail). Instead, shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them. DO NOT carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out ONLY when necessary. DO NOT give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet, unless you absolutely know whom you are dealing with.

5 Detect any suspicious activity by routinely monitoring financial accounts, billings, and banking statements. Whether accidental or deliberate human error is inevitable; therefore, it is essential to review content of any document for accuracy, legitimacy, and validity. Defend against ID theft as soon as you detect anything out-of-the- ordinary by reporting problems immediately to proper institutions, and by filing report at the police department. By all means, DO keep your personal information in a secure place at home. Consider investing in a shredder and a fireproof file cabinet to ensure a safe place for important documents.

6 CREDIT CARD Usage Besides owning a home or a car, a credit card is one of the most valuable items you can obtain, and one of the most transferable items you will ever possess. It can be used for (1) purchasing grocery (2) DVD's (3) CD’s (4) games (5) buying online (6) clothing. Its most admirable use is the ability to receive cash, depending on your contract of course, and more. DO NOT sign or initial the back of VISA and Debit cards, or credit cards, because, if the card is lost or stolen the person who retrieves it will also have your signature. Instead, be prepared to present proof of ID to cashiers and tellers when using credit cards.

7 Furthermore, to discourage unauthorized use of the card: Do not give your credit card number to anyone over the phone without knowing why, or who. Only use Websites that state they have a secure connection and is a reputable business. Do not put your credit card number on the outside of envelopes, or post cards. Do not sign blank charge slips. In the event you are at a store that uses carbon copies, ask for the carbon paper. Check monthly statements for accuracy. Cut up old and useless credit cards by cutting through the account number. Protect your credit card pin number. Carry as few credit cards as possible.

8 Personally, I think anyone should inform institutions that bearer of the card should present cashiers with picture ID, especially when card is used in stores. In addition, if you would like a free copy of your credit report, contact Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It is a requirement by law for these agencies to give you a free copy of your credit report each year, at your request. Upon arrival, look for accounts that you have not opened, and unexplained debts. Below is contact numbers to request copy of report from agencies. Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

9 The World Wide Web or Internet has become the largest means of communication of its kind. We can email, fax, send and receive documents to almost any city, country, or location in the world. Nevertheless, there are precautions to consider when forwarding information and retrieving information on the Internet. For example, when creating passwords on Websites DO NOT use obvious password such as birth dates personal numbers, your mother's maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number, etc. Create passwords with a combination of letters, underscores, and numbers; but keep it simple enough to remember. INTERNET Usage and Firewall Protection

10 Next, never click on links sent in unsolicited emails (people that you do not know). Only, type in a web address you know. It is imperative to install firewalls on computers to prevent access of your information, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to- date. To summarize, Do not share personal information with people over the phone, do not sign the backs of your credit cards, protect pin numbers, put important documents in a safe place, dispose of important documents appropriately. Protect your personal information as though your life depends upon it. Report any suspicious activity to proper authorities, immediately. After all, a little prevention can save you a lot of heartache in the end.

11 For more information about avoiding ID Theft, contact Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or TTY, 1-866-653-4261, by mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580, or visit the Websites provided. Sources identity+theft&FORM=MSNH (June 23, 2007) (June 23, 2007) detect-defend.html (June 23, 2007) (June 23, 2007) (June 23, 2007)

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