Protect Your Identity
By Michele Barber, Northstar Bank, Denton LIVING WELL Magazine
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports approximately 10 million Americans fall victim to identity theft each year. Because this crime is growing at an unbelievable rate, it is important for us to know what to do to prevent identity theft, and even more important to know how to respond when our identity is stolen.
To avoid identity theft, the FTC refers to the three “Ds”: DETER, DETECT, and DEFEND:
- You should always shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you recycle or discard them.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card with you. Share it only when absolutely necessary.
- Never click on a link of an unsolicited email. Visit www.OnGuardOnline.gov for addition information and tips. Use firewalls, anti-spyware and anti-virus software to protect home computers.
- Don’t give out personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless absolutely sure you know who you are dealing with.
- Don’t use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother’s maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Keep personal information in a secure place; make copies of all your credit cards and keep that in a secure place in case your wallet is stolen or lost.
- Be alert to late bills, unexpected credit cards or statements, denials of credit for no apparent reason, communication about purchases you did not make.
- Check your credit report at least once a year.
- Review your accounts, statements, and billings regularly for unauthorized charges.
- Place a “fraud alert” on your credit report so creditors follow certain guidelines before opening new accounts in your name or make changes to your accounts. This entitles you to free credit reports from: Equifax: 1-800-525-6285, Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); or TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289.
- Immediately close any account that has been compromised.
- File a police report with your local officials to document the crime.
- Report the theft to the FTC via www.ftc.gov/idtheft or
While there is no fool-proof way to avoid identity theft, you can minimize your chance of becoming a victim. Remember to Deter, Detect and Defend your name. Together we can help to lessen this crime.
Author Michele Barber is with the NORTHSTAR BANK OF TEXAS, www.nstarbank.com