Identity Theft - Protect Your Identity
Take steps to avoid identity theft. Always follow safe banking and financial practices:
Keep account numbers and PIN numbers safe.
Cover your account and PIN numbers any time you use your debit card at the store and never, ever give your PIN number to anyone. Do not write down your PIN and account numbers.
Only do business with businesses you trust.
Be wary of using your credit card unless you are very sure the business is a legitimate one.
Rip Up pre-approved offers
When you get an application for credit cards in the mail that are “pre-approved”, rip it up as well as any enclosed information before discarding them. This is not being paranoid. Identity thieves sometimes go through garbage in order to find these forms and then they fill them out and steal your identity.
If you use a computer, install good firewall and antivirus protection system and update it yearly.
Unless you contact a company, do not give out any account information.
Avoid providing private information through your email or computer. Ignore any email asking for your account information and, if it appears to come from your bank or an account you have, phone them about the message.
Be wary of unsolicited emails, phone calls, or mail advertisements.
Many are from legitimate companies, but there are companies who promise you a credit card over the phone, only to charge your existing credit card without ever sending you anything.
When in doubt, check the company’s standing with the Better Business Bureau.
Send a money order instead of a check (which had your account number) or your credit card information. If you do use a credit card, report any unusual charges or any payments you made for a product that did not arrive to the credit card company.
Some people never check their credit card statements. This is a disaster waiting to happen. You want to verify that you made the purchases you are being billed for and question any you are not sure of or that you know you did not make.
In some cases, they can stop payment or refund your money as well as take steps to keep your credit card number safe.
Be wary of offers that seem too good to be true.
If you get an offer for a huge payment requiring you to put down money as a “sign if good faith” ... or if you get an offer for a free state-of-the art computer - if only you provide your account information... destroy it! People get caught in this type of scam daily.
When faced with an offer that seems too good to be true, do some research on the web, through the Better Business Bureau, or ask the person making the offer some questions. Never take someone up on an offer that you have been given unsolicited unless the company and the offer both check out.
Always read the fine print.
Some services or companies will have tiny print in their contract or agreement that allows them to charge you extra hidden fees or that allows them to retract certain offers. If you get an offer through email or the mail, make it a habit to read the fine print.
Be alert for a sudden disruption in your mail service.
If you do not get mail for some time, contact your post office and ask whether your address was recently submitted for a “change of address” service. It sounds strange, but it’s true.
One way that criminals steal identities is to change your address at the local post office. They redirect your mail to a post office box number and steal your mail looking for personal information such as bank statements, pre-approved credit card applications, and other pieces of mail they can use to steal your identity.
They use this information to pose as you with lenders and run up huge charges in your name. Simply keeping an eye out on your mail can help you keep your credit score safe.
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