8 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

Precaution is the best defense

By FamilyTime


We’ve all heard the horror stories of people whose identities are “stolen” by cyber thieves who run up huge credit card and other bills -- or engage in illegal activities under a stolen name. Don’t let it happen to you. Here are some tips to prevent identity theft:

  1. Never reveal your Social Security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, credit card or bank account numbers to anyone who contacts you. If you get a phone call or e-mail, don’t answer—even if it appears to be your credit card company, bank, EBay account or other organization with which you do business regularly. It could be a scam artist impersonating your regular business vendors. (If you initiate the call, that’s different. The customer service rep will ask for your ID to verify who you are. If you are concerned about a call or email, call the company.)
  2. If anybody claims that you have won a prize or special promotion, whether by phone, snail mail or e-mail, do not “verify” your identity by sharing personal information. This call could very well be initiated by a scam artist—especially if you don’t recall entering a contest.
  3. Don’t use your cell phone to discuss personal information or place credit card orders. Cell phone transmissions are not secure and can be overheard.
  4. Don’t lose track of paperwork; be sure you have charge slips and bank receipts when you’re done with a transaction. Keep them for several months at least. Shred sensitive papers before disposing of them.
  5. If you are looking for a job, try to avoid posting your résumé on employment web sites; send it directly to a potential employer. If you must post it, don’t include sensitive information such as your birth date or Social Security number on it. Nor should you put these numbers on a resume you submit directly to a prospective employer. If the employer asks for it, offer to provide it in person, or barring that, on a secure land line during a call you initiate.
  6. Invest in anti-virus, spy ware and firewall protection for your personal computer. If you shop online, only patronize Web sites addresses that begin with “https”—not “http.” The "s" denotes a secure site.
  7. Don’t use important dates, numbers or names as passwords for bank cards or e-commerce accounts. Come up with something more cryptic and keep a written record somewhere secure (not online).
  8. Be wary of the emerging field of credit monitoring. In return for a fee, credit monitoring companies pledge to alert you if anyone uses your name to get credit. They vary widely in effectiveness and don’t provide 100 percent protection. Major credit care companies are pretty good at monitoring their customers transactions and if they contact you, take them seriously -- but call them back on a land line before discussing details. Federal law also mandates that you can monitor your own credit periodically for free. The law states that the three major credit reporting companies must provide you with free copies of your credit report annually. For details, visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228, or write to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

With some diligence and a good measure of common sense, your identity should remain right where it should be: with you!