Health & Safety

April 19, 2012

Weekly financial tips: Identity theft

Ryki Carlson

While watching the news, reading the paper or even viewing the headlines online, it’s hard to get away from the recent increase in identity theft. With people stealing credit and debit card numbers, it’s clear that steps need to be taken to protect our identity. Here are a few ways to help prevent identity theft.

  1. Review credit reports periodically. A free credit report can be pulled annually from all three bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com. If they’re spaced out, one can be pulled every four months for free. Keep track of when they were pulled. Additionally, an Experian credit report can be pulled from www.quizzle.com twice a year for free.
  2. Place a credit freeze. This prevents creditors from issuing credit altogether and blocks others, including potential creditors, landlords and employers from viewing credit reports. Freezes are free for identity theft victims, but for others, it costs approximately ten dollars for each credit bureau. An “Active Duty Alert” can also be placed to prevent identity theft while you are deployed. Call 888-766-0008 to set up a free “Active Duty Alert” or check out https://www.alerts.equifax.com. Visit http://www.defendyourdollars.org/money_topics.html for state specific information, including costs.
  3. Secure and protect computers and mobile phones. If financial data is kept on a computer, set up a password to make sure only one person can access the files. Never use a computer to store a list of the passwords used for online baking or other financial websites. Set up a pin to access a phone and remember to put a security app on the phone to scan for viruses, malware, spyware and Trojans. There are free applications for this.
  4.  Read the mail. Lately banks and credit card companies are sending cards and statements that resemble junk mail. Take the time to read all the mail, even if it looks like junk.
  5. Review monthly bills. Make sure charges from utilities, credit card companies, the bank and phone companies can be recognized.
  6. Shred or rip up financial records before disposing of them. Cross-cut shredders are recommended for home use.
  7. Be cautious with social security numbers and personal information. Store original social security card some place safe, such as a lock box, safe or safety deposit box. Resist giving out social security number when asked, different forms of identification can work just as well. Give a social security number when asking for credit or applying for a job. Be cautious about putting too much information on social networking sites as Facebook. Do not put full date of birth, phone number or physical address.
  8. Use bill pay and opt for online statements. By paying with a financial institution’s bill pay, additional costs of postage and late fees can be avoided. Also, transactions are more secure. Online statements prevent information from getting into the wrong hands and are easily accessible anytime.
  9. Cancel inactive credit cards. Without regular statements, it’s hard to tell if the card is being misused.



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