By Adam Steiner
To prevent identity theft, you need to pay attention to how you give out your personal information and how you dispose of garbage that contains your personal information. Before giving out any personal information ask why it is needed and how it will be used.
Your best line of defense is to keep this information to yourself except when it is absolutely necessary. Always ask why it is being requested and do not give it out unless there is a valid reason. Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. You will hardly ever need it, so keep it in a safe place at home. Never give out your Social Security number using email.
Do not give your passwords or account numbers to anyone. Use different passwords for different accounts. Choose passwords and PINs that are not easy to guess-avoid your birth date, anniversary or middle name. Do not write your passwords down or carry them in your purse or wallet. If you find you need to keep a written record of them, keep it at home and don't label it clearly as such. Keep it in a hard to find place.
Carry only those cards that you use on a regular basis. Leave the rest at home in a secure location. Close accounts that you don't use. Before discarding credit card receipts, make sure you tear them up so the account number and expiration date is not readable. Cut up credit cards you are discarding. Some credit cards offer you the option of including a small photo of yourself on the card. This can help reduce identity theft, or at least prevent that particular card from being used.
Know when to expect your credit card bill in the mail and if it doesn't arrive when you expect it, call the credit card company. Your bill could have been stolen. When you make online purchases or apply for loans online, make sure the site you are dealing with is using a secure server. Never give out account numbers or Social Security numbers via email since it could possibly be intercepted. If you must give an account number or Social Security number to a merchant who does not use a secure server, fax the information to them.
Be aware that one scam identity thieves use is sending you email pretending to be from your internet service provider telling you that you need to update your account information or re-verify your credit card information. Never give out your account numbers, Social Security information or other personal information to a person over the phone. If someone contacts you by phone with a special offer or service for sale, ask for the information in writing.
You also need to be careful about how you dispose of garbage that contains account numbers or other personal information. Buy a shredder or rip things up before throwing them out. Cut up old credit cards before discarding them. Rip or shred credit card convenience checks before throwing them out. Shred account statements, deposit receipts, withdrawal receipts and other documents with numbers on them that could be copied.
Consider purchasing a small fireproof safe to keep at home. Some of these are the size of a shoebox and cost under $40. Keep birth certificates, Social Security cards, marriage licenses, bonds and other valuable items in it. It is also a good idea to maintain a list of your credit cards, account numbers and contact information here so that if your purse or wallet is stolen, you can easily contact the credit card companies about the theft.
If your mail box is a roadside box (or a box attached to the house when no one is home all day), make sure that you remove mail as soon as it is delivered. If you are unable to do so, consider using a post office box for all mail. If you are concerned about your mail sitting in the box all day, consider renting a P.O. box.
Do not leave outgoing mail sitting in a roadside box. Deposit it in a post office drop box. Mail that sits in boxes is easily stolen. Do not take your personal mail to work to be sent out with your employer's mail. Someone else in the office could open it and obtain your account numbers. If you notice that some of your mail has been opened or tampered with, report it to your local post office.
A Guide for Preventing Identity Theft [http://id-theftprevent.com/preventing-identity-theft]
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