Wednesday, August 25, 2010

8 Simple Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Exposure to Identity Theft

There's no foolproof way to avoid having your identity stolen, but there are a number of precautions you can take to minimize your odds of being a victim.  Here are a few of them:

1.  Monitor your credit report.  Many consumers don't even realize their identity has been stolen until they are denied credit due to information provided on their credit reports.

2.  Don't give out personal information indiscriminately.  Before you give any personal information by mail, internet, or telephone, confirm you are dealing with a legitimate organization.

3.  Be careful with your mail.  Don't use an unsecured mailbox when mailing anything that contains financial information.  Mail sensitive materials from a post office collection box or your local post office.  Remove mail from your own mailbox promptly.  And, if you're planning to be away from your home, be sure to put a hold on your mail until you return.

4.  Guard your trash.  Identity thieves have been known to gather personal information from trash.  Before throwing them away, be sure to tear of shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, bank statements, and the credit card offers you get in the mail.

5.  Only give your Social Security Number when absolutely necessary.  There are legitimate reason you will be asked for your social security number.  Your employer and financial institution may need it for wage and tax reporting, and it's usually necessary whenever a credit check is required.  Before giving out your number, be sure to ask why it's needed and how it will be used.

6.  Pay attention to billing cycles.  If your bills don't arrive on time, follow up with creditors.  A missing statement could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address.

7.  Exercise caution online.  Before making any purchase via your computer, look for the icon of a lock in the lower right-hand corner of your browser window.  If it's there, you're dealing with a secure site.  If not, you'll be safer finding another merchant.

8.  Remove personal information from old computers.  If you delete sensitive files by using your keyboard mouse, the files may remain on your computer's hard drive where they can be easily retrieved.  To make sure your files are unrecoverable, use a "wipe" utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.

Posted via email from bnice's posterous

No comments: