Keep Yourself Safe from Identity Theft

New technology enables us to communicate in ways we have never been able to before. Yet with it comes the very real possibility that we can become victims of identify theft. This can be a devastating and stressful experience, and try as we might to prevent it, there's always some new method that criminals will find to cause havoc. In order to protect yourself from identity theft, here are some simple rules to follow:

Check your credit reports annually and issue a fraud alert with each major reporting agency – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Purchase a shredder so that you can destroy documents, mail, or anything that has your name, address or other personal information on it.

When shopping online, ensure the site is encrypted and has a small padlock icon at the bottom right-hand corner of your screen.

Never give out personal information online, such as your Social Security Number.

Never give out personal information to any solicitors that may call.

Ensure pin numbers for credit cards incorporate both letters and numbers. Memorize the pin number; never carry it with you.

If you use an ATM machine, ensure that no one is standing where they can see your PIN number when you enter it.

If you purchase a gift for someone online, ensure that the bill is not sent along with the gift. It may contain your credit card number on it.

If you pay credit cards bills online and opt to not receive paper bills each month, make sure you check your online statements frequently.

If your card is lost or stolen, notify the credit card company immediately.

If your wallet or purse is stolen, notify the police immediately and file a report. Contact your credit card companies, your bank and any other applicable agencies.

Never leave your wallet or purse on the front seat of your car for any reason.

If you expect a bill and it doesn't arrive, notify the issuing company immediately.

Always post your mail at the Post Office; do not leave it in your mailbox for the mail carrier to pick up.

If you obtain a money order from the post office or bank, don't discard the carbon. Take it home with you and shred it.

Cut up all expired credit cards before discarding them.

Carry no more than one credit card in your wallet or purse.

If someone arrives at your front door claiming to be a utility serviceman or policeman, do not open the door. Call the police if you're suspicious.

Many credit card companies now offer virtual passwords and/or numbers to prevent fraud. Sign up for this service.

Change your online password every three weeks.

Do not open any emails from individuals or companies that you don't know.

Do not respond to instant messages unless you know who the person is. When in doubt, block them.

Ensure that your computer has the best online security software available. Good Internet security software will automatically alert you to threats as well as scan your entire computer for viruses and other issues.

If you utilize a cable modem, unplug the PC cable from the modem every night.

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