Protect Your Identity Every Day
In my last column, I wrote about how to protect your identity during the 2010 census. So I thought today it would be a good idea to remind you how to protect your personal information at all times.
High-tech fraud may be notorious, but it accounts for a relatively small amount of ID thefts. The most common source of obtaining personal information illegally is low-tech stealing (of a wallet, purse, mail and even trash). Below are some common dos and don'ts that can help you protect your information and your credit record.
-- Women, don't hang your purse on the back a chair in a public place.
-- Men, do put a rubber band around your wallet -- the friction makes it more difficult to pull from a pocket.
-- Do get a shredder (available for less than $15 at office supply or discount stores) and shred all documents that contain personal information.
-- Don't write down or give out your PIN.
-- Don't carry all of your credit cards with you.
-- Do sign your credit cards. Messages such as "See photo ID" don't work because it's more difficult for thieves to forge your signature than to come up with a fake ID with your name on it.
-- Do check your credit record with the three main credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- at least annually to check for bogus entries or errors. You are entitled to a free report from each bureau once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com
-- Don't carry your social security card with you.
-- Don't have your social security number or telephone number printed on your checks.
-- Don't give a business your social security number just because it asks for it.
-- Do find out how a business will use your personal information and what will happen if you don't give it.
-- Don't give out personal information on the phone, on the Internet or by mail unless you initiate the contact.
-- Do pay close attention to credit card bills to ensure no unauthorized charges are being made.
-- Do watch for monthly bills. If they fail to reach you, call the company to find out why.
-- Don't use obvious passwords or PINs, such as your birth date, phone number, mother's maiden name, etc.
-- Do safeguard your computer by updating your virus protection regularly and using a firewall program.
-- Don't download files sent by strangers.
-- Do look for Web site privacy policies when buying something online.
-- Don't store financial information on your laptop.
-- Do delete personal information from your computer before getting rid of it.