Identity Theft Protection

Identity theft has been a hot topic in recent news programs due to stories about millions of customers having their personal credit card accounts being stolen or misplaced.

In this day and age it is commonplace to have to supply your social security number in order to obtain new services from banks, auto dealers, telephone companies, and ISPs to name a few. Few people realize that only a small number of industries has to have your ssn in order to give you service.

To help protect yourself from potential identity theft, it is important to ask whoever is requesting your ssn to explain why they need it. If it is for statistical purposes just refuse to give it out. If they say it is for filing reasons, ask if they can use anything else other than your ssn for that purpose. If they need it in order to do business with you and you are still not comfortable with giving out the ssn, ask if they can use just the last four digits.

Some companies will and can do business with you without ever having your ssn on file. Others require it for every customer and if that is the case, you can always shop around for another business.

Another way to protect your identity is to not carry your ssn card or the number on your person. If your wallet or purse is stolen with your ssn card inside, that can spell trouble.

Shred any documents that have any personal info such as your name, ssn, credit card numbers, ect.

When using your credit card, make sure you keep all receipts so that you can cross check your bank statements with the receipts to make sure the person processing your card did not make a mistake in the amount if it was manually typed into the system. A good example of this is when you give your credit card to pay for a meal in a restaurant. Since the waitstaff types in your info manually in most cases, there is room for mistakes or even outright theft of more monies than you authorizes on the receipt. Since the receipt is printed out and given to you before it goes through the machine, it is important that you keep track of every transaction in order to protect yourself from theft.

Another good tip is to not say your social security number or credit card number outloud if you are in a public place. It is the norm to use a cell phone for business transactions in public places now. Be aware of your surroundings before verbally giving out your personal information. Save those types of transactions for a private space such as your office, car, or home.

Finally, pull up your credit report at least once a year to check for fraudulant collections or credit card accounts. It is suggested that you order all three; Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. Most states can now get one free report from each of the three credit reporting agencies for free! Check your states’ website for more information on how to obtain a free credit report as soon as you can.

In closing, it is important that you take your personal information seriously. Only give your info out to a select few companies and individuals and require that everyone else use a more general identifying piece of information for filing purposes. Get rid of anything that can be seen, heard or found that may have your personal information it. Be aware that with millons of people in jeopardy of identity theft, it CAN happen to you.

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