Top 10 Ways to Protect Your identity

An estimated 9 million Americans have their identity stolen each year. (Says the FTC, so it must be true!) Could you be next? Wait, could I be next?? (Cue suspenseful music.) I sure hope not!!Unless you’re an identical twin, there shouldn’t be anyone out there walking around pretending to be you, and getting away with it! Taking a few minor precautions can help protect your good name. Even though following the steps below will NOT guarantee your safety, it will help greatly decrease your chance of becoming an identity theft victim.

If you read all the way to the end of the list… you will find some very helpful contact information, should you fall victim despite your conscious efforts.

  1. Protect your social security number. Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet or purse. If your social security number is listed on your driver’s license, health insurance card, checkbook, etc. request to have it reissued.
  2. Use secure passwords to protect your laptop and PDA and change these passwords regularly. For more information on how to create a safe password, read this article. (Written by yours truly.smile wink emoticon )
  3. Clean out your wallet or purse often. Remove seldom used credit cards and cancel those you no longer need.
  4. Look over your bills and credit card statements to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary. If you notice a discrepancy, contact your provider immediately.
  5. Take advantage of free credit reports. You are allowed one free report each year from the three national credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. By requesting one report every four months, you can stay up to date on your credit score year round without costing a penny. (Count me in!)
  6. Don’t give out personal information to unsecured websites. A web page containing “https” in the address or a padlock symbol next to the address field is a secure site, meaning that the information you provide will be encrypted or scrambled, protecting it from hackers.
  7. Use firewall, virus, and spyware protection. Update it regularly to keep your computer safe from “uninvited guests”.
  8. Shred documents that contain sensitive information. Invest in a cross-cut shredder that leaves no trace of the once-whole document. (Also perfect for destroying evidence of that office holiday party where you thought karaoke was your new calling.)
  9. Make a list of your credit card and bank account numbers along with the customer service lines for each and keep it in a safe place. If you do fall victim to identity theft, this list will make it quick and easy to put a hold on your accounts, preventing any additional fraudulent charges.
  10. If you suspect identity theft…
    • Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report the fraud.
      • Online: www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft
      • By phone: (877) ID THEFT
      • By mail: Consumer Response Center, FTC
        600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
        Washington, D.C. 20580
    • Contact your local post office if you suspect there has been a fraudulent change of your address.
    • Contact the Social Security Administration at (800) 269-0271 if you suspect that your social security number has been improperly used.
    • Contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at (800) 829-0433 if you suspect an inappropriate use of your identity in connection with tax violations.
    • Notify the Fraud units of each credit bureau:
      • Equifax: (800) 525-6285
      • Experian: (888) 397-3742
      • Trans Union: (800) 680-7289
    • Contact your financial institution and put a hold on all accounts that have been or could be wrongfully accessed by the identity thief.
    • Contact your local police department to file a report and get advice on further actions to take.

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