Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft the First Time Around

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With thousands of consumers falling victim to identity theft each month, most likely someone within your own neighborhood where you live is currently a victim. With such close-to-home statistics, consumers need to be more proactive in the way they protect themselves from identity theft. Though there is no 100 percent guarantee that taking these precautions will protect you forever, they will certainly lower your chances that you will join your neighbor in the identity theft recovery process.

Destroy Documents – If it cannot be emphasized enough, a person should always destroy any documents that have their personal information on it. This could be general mail, receipts, statements, etc. Tear it up, shred it, or file it away to throw away at a document disposal company. Never leave receipts behind at restaurants, gas stations, etc. Take them with you and destroy them at home.

Safeguard Your Mail – Your mail contains everything an identity thieve needs to commit identity fraud. Therefore it is extremely important that a consumer know how to protect their mail. Always mail your outgoing bills from the post office directly and never allow your mail to sit overnight in your mailbox. If you are going out of town, place a hold on your mail until you are back.

Protect Your Social Security Number – A consumer should never give out their social security number unless absolutely necessary. Never use your social security number as a means of identification for school ids, medical insurance, etc. When you apply for a job, do not give out your social until you are actually hired.

Protect Your Credit and Debit Cards – Never store or give out your credit card or debit card information on websites or to companies you do not know. There are a lot of online shopping companies that will store your credit card information, but you will want to ensure that you protect yourself against a potential hacker stealing this information by not storing it there to begin with.

Ask Whom You Are Speaking With – In the event a company or individual calls asking to verify personal information, request that you call them back. If they are a legitimate company you should be able to call the number directly and get a hold of that individual again.

Monitor, Monitor, Monitor – It cannot be stressed enough by the Federal Trade Commission, but consumers need to monitor their account statements and credit reports to ensure that they have not fallen victim to identity theft. Scrutinize every statement and report and ensure that there are no new accounts, changes or charges that you cannot assure you did yourself.

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