By Abhishek Agarwal
Identity theft is an increasingly bothersome and dangerous crime. Victims of identity theft suffer tremendous financial vulnerability that may take years to clear up. Follow this advice.
It's difficult to control identity theft. First, it's hard to know when it's happening. Second, because the thief is using a false identity, it's hard to catch and prosecute them.
Federal and state governments are doing what they can to prevent identity theft by passing new legislation identifying it as a crime worthy of prison time and then trying to enforce the laws. Businesses are developing and installing better security on their computer systems and trying harder to protect their customers' personal information from hackers.
But, at least in today's world, preventing identity theft falls largely upon us, the individual consumer. Here are some tips to help you protect yourself from this malicious, damaging crime:
Here are some ways to prevent identity theft:
1. Protect your mail with a lock
Whether using your residential mail box or renting a box at the Post Office or postal service, be sure your mail is protected from the eyes and hands of greedy criminals. Stealing mail that contains personal information is perhaps the biggest source of identity theft today.
2. Rent a box from your Post Office or a postal service
Especially if you're frequently away from home, you'll enjoy better personal security if you keep your mail where others have their eyes on it when you're away. And you can let the service know who is authorized to open your mailbox if necessary. Keep the key with you, and don't lend it to people you're not sure about. Use this service for posting your outgoing mail as well. Don't leave it attached to your residential mailbox where anyone can pick it up. Finally, ask the Post Office to hold your mail while you're gone on long trips. It will be much more secure at the post office than in your mailbox.
3. NEVER give out personal information over the phone.
Some identity thieves pose as representatives for a charity or a telemarketing or polling firm to fool you into trusting them enough to get your personal information. Don't even give your birth date to them! Ask if you can call them back. Better yet, simply hang up. You don't owe these callers a thing!
4. Have a private, unlisted phone number
You'll be more secure if the only people who know your number got it directly from you. And give your phone number to those people you trust. Ask them not to share it with others unless they ask you first. You have a right to your privacy. Don't use the unlisted number on internet or printed forms either. And if you do get calls from telemarketers, tell them to "Take my name off your list." By law, they can't call you again for a year when you make this request.
5. Keep your PINs and passwords in a safe place
If you don't feel comfortable memorizing your PINs and passwords and feel you must write them down. Be sure you store your lists in a locked, secure location. Don't let anyone else know where you keep the information, and don't lend the key to anyone. Also, store your PINs in a different location as your plastic cards. A thief who can't guess your PIN will end up getting locked out of the system. This will be a good warning sign for you, and it will protect your money! Also, if don't intend to use a credit or debit card, don't carry it with you. Not only will this protect it from being stolen, it'll help you stay within your personal budget!
6. Keep a photocopy of your wallet's contents in a safe, locked place
Make sure you have a record of the contents of your wallet or purse. That way, you can easily report to each company if and when your belongings are lost or stolen. In case of loss, immediately notify every company involved and ask them to freeze your account.
7. Be smart when you choose your passwords
Avoid using common passwords based on your birth date, an anniversary, your phone number, or your pet's name. Mix letters with numbers and symbols. Avoid using the same password for all your accounts, but be sure each of your accounts is password protected. Finally, change your passwords at least twice a year.
8. Get regular credit reports
Request your one-time-a-year free credit report. You have a right to it. And if you can afford the additional cost, it would be better to get regular updates throughout the year. Intervals of 3 to 6 months will help you keep close track on your accounts and allow you to catch suspicious activity sooner. Call the three major agencies to get your report:
Equifax: P.O. Box 740241 Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
For emergencies, call 1-800-525-6285
Experian: P.O. Box 2002 Allen TX 75013
For emergencies, call 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
Trans Union: P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022
For emergencies, call 1-800-680-7289
9. Review your bills when you receive them, and keep them in a locked safe place
Be sure to note all purchases and transactions on your monthly statements to be sure you are familiar with them. If you find a transaction you did not authorize, act on it immediately. Notify the company of your suspicions and submit a dispute with the vendor. Save your old statements for at least a year in case a problem arises. And keep your personal papers under lock and key. This would include birth certificates and social security cards; applications for mortgages, loans, and credit cards; and bills, invoices, and monthly statements. These documents are rich with personal information that will be a goldmine to an identity thief. If you can, keep these papers in a safe deposit box where only you and one other trusted person know the location and/or have a key.
10. Invest in a good paper shredder
The best way to protect personal information on papers you don't want to keep is to use a cross-cut paper shredder to destroy them before you throw them away. This should include outdated credit receipts, credit application copies, insurance forms you don't need anymore, physician invoices and reports, old checks and bank statements, and expired credit cards you don't intend to renew or use again. Do yourself a favor and immediately shred pre-approved credit applications.
11. Be careful with your credit cards
If at all possible, ask for a photo ID type credit card. And when you use it, note whether the clerk checks your signature against the one on the card. If they don't, you might want to avoid that store in the future. Don't let a waitress or waiter walk away with your credit card. Better to pay cash at restaurants than to risk the copy-it-while-I-have-it scam.
12. Use common sense online
Use encrypted or secure servers when you sign into financial accounts or make online purchases. Do not do business with websites you haven't heard of before. Don't open files sent to you by people you don't know. For that matter, don't open e-mails from strangers. Delete them immediately. Install and maintain current anti-virus, firewall, and adware software to block and delete malicious cookies and spyware before it does any damage. Set your browser to refuse to open pop-ups without your approval. Be careful and suspicious online. You can't see the person or people at the other end, and you don't know what their intentions are. Limit your online purchases to well known businesses and places where you already have an account.
Abhishek is a Personal Security expert and he has got some great Identity Theft Prevention Secrets [http://www.Survival-Today.com/14/index.htm] up his sleeves! Download his FREE 136 Pages Ebook, "Identity Theft - Don't Be The Next Victim!" from his website [http://www.Survival-Today.com/14/index.htm]. Only limited Free Copies available.
Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?12-Great-Ways-To-Prevent-Identity-Theft&id=1659750] 12 Great Ways To Prevent Identity Theft