How to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft
Identity theft actually went down somewhat in 2005 compared to the previous year, according to a survey by the Better Business Bureau and Javelin Strategy & Research. But, 8.9 million people still had personal information stolen and fraudulently used last year. Take steps to reduce your chances of becoming a victim.
1. Guard your personal information.
- Deposit outgoing mail in Post Office box rather than your mailbox at home.
- Never give out financial or personal information by phone, mail or the Internet unless you’re certain you’re dealing with a genuine, reputable company.
- Provide your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use another form of ID.
- Shred charge receipts, statements and other financial documents before discarding.
- Be careful co-signing for friends or relatives, some privacy experts say. By filling out the information, you are providing confidential information that can be used to get other unauthorized credit.
2. Monitor your credit reports.
You can get an annual free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – at www.annualcreditreport.com. By spacing your requests at four-month intervals, you can monitor your credit throughout the year.
3. Report fraudulent activity.
As soon as you recognize an unauthorized entry in your credit report or on a monthly statement, promptly file a complaint with the local police and keep a copy of the report, Consumer Reports Money Adviser recommends. The Federal Trade Commission offers a model ID-theft affidavit, on their web site, that you can use to notify companies holding fraudulent accounts in your name. To limit further damage, place a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting one of the credit bureaus, which should then automatically notify the other two.