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Identity Theft

In a technological world, identity theft is a growing crime. Here are some fundamental tips for office and home from the Federal Trade Commission to reduce our exposure to identity theft. While nothing will protect us completely, we can employ some measures to minimize our risks of identity theft.

1. Deposit all outgoing mail in mailboxes or in the mailing slots at your local post office. Before you leave on vacation, call or visit your post office and request that your mail be held until your return

2. Give out your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary.

3. Keep all your personal and account information in a safe place, preferably a locked drawer or cabinet in your house.

4. Shred credit card offers, health insurance statements, and anything else containing your Social Security number before discarding them.

5. Never write your PIN (personal identification number) on the back of your card or on a piece of paper in your handbag or wallet.

6. Do not choose a PIN that uses digits from your birth date, Social Security number, telephone number, or street address.

7. Carry only the credit cards you think you will need on a given day. Keep them separate from your wallet.

8. Keep a record of all your account numbers, expiration dates, and the phone number of each credit card issuer in a secure place at home for quick reference in case of loss or theft.

9. When using your credit card to make a purchase, keep an eye on the clerk during the transaction and get the card back immediately with any credit card carbons. Destroy the carbons.

10. When you make an online purchase, be sure you are in a secure section of the Web site; the http://address should change to https:// (the "s" stands for secure), and a lock or key symbol should appear in a lower corner of the Web page.

11. Save your receipts. When your statement comes, open it promptly and compare the two. If there is a charge you know you did not make, immediately contact the card issuer and follow up in writing to their billing inquiries address.

12. Sign your new or replacement card as soon as you receive it. Cut up the old card so that the numbers cannot be read.

13. Never write your account number on the outside of the payment envelope.

14. Never give your account number over the phone unless you were the one who initiated the call to make a purchase and you are sure the company is reputable.

15. Every year, order a copy of your credit report (about $9) from all three major credit reporting agencies to make sure it is accurate. Their phone numbers and addresses are listed at the FTC's Web Site (www.consumer.gov/idtheft) and linked to the Identify Theft Resource Center Web site, www.idtheftcenter.org. Both sites also offer helpful resources for victims and for those who want to avoid becoming victims.

Links

U.S. government central website for information about identity theft

Federal Trade Commission Report (PDF file)

ID Theft Affidavit (PDF file)

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