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10 Steps to Avoid ID Theft
How much information does an ID thief need to steal someone's identity? Easily found personal information such as a name, birth date, address, or a mother's maiden name can be enough for an ID thief to access someone's existing accounts or establish new loans or credit in another's name.
Every day, personal information is stolen. ID thefts occur when someone shifts through a trash can or a waiter writes down a customer's credit card number. While network security is constantly improving - especially as more consumers conduct shopping and banking online, it is still imperative that personal information be monitored and protected by its immediate owner.
Following are 10 steps to securing and protecting personal information, according to Tony Bradley, respected information security resource guru and author of Essential Computer Security:
Be on guard for the shoulder surfer. This is the guy who likes to casually look over someone's shoulder as he or she enters a PIN number or credit card number at an ATM, phone booth, or even work computer. Those using a public place to withdraw cash or import personal information should always be aware of others around them and their ability to see what keys are being pressed.
Direct people to photo ID verification. Instead of signing the back of a credit card, write "See photo ID" on the back. Often, store clerks do not check for a signature on a credit card; and thieves can still use these cards to make purchases online or over the phone. However, for times when signature verification is required, the card holder is creating another layer of security by directing a salesperson a photo ID as well.
Shred bills and credit cards statements. Thieves who acquire information by going through trash are known as "dumpster diving." These individuals are looking for bills, statements, and even junk mail to steal an identity. Use a personal shredder to destroy any and all material that contains personal information before disposing of them in the trash.
Destroy all digital data. Individuals who sell, trade or discard of a computer system, hard drive, recordable CD, DVD, or backup tape should take extra precautions to ensure the data has been completely destroyed. Thieves who are technically savvy may retrieve information believed to have been deleted or reformatted. CDs and DVDs should be shattered before being thrown away and there are shredders designed to shred CD/DVD media.
Check any and all statements. Cross-checking bank and credit statements has two benefits. First, individuals who regularly check their statements will be more aware if one does not arrive each month – indicating that an account has possibly been stolen. Secondly, checking statements allows the account holder to confirm that the entries are legitimate.
Pay paper bills at the post office. Paid bills that are left in the mailbox can be stolen by someone looking for critical information – such as a name, address, credit card account number, or bank information. Take bills to the post office or to a U.S. Postal Service drop box.
Limit personal information on checks. It may be convenient to have a driver's license number or other information printed on personal checks. However, if that information falls into the wrong hands it may be enough information for a thief to cause real harm.
Review a credit report each year. Thanks to a recent congressional act, consumers can check their credit report for free each year, provided from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Check the report for any suspicious entries or activity.
Protect your Social Security Number. Now, more than ever, if a thief has personal information such as a name, address, and a social security number, he or she can assume someone's identity. Especially never give out your social security number over the phone or email.
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