Basic Steps to Reduce the Risk of Identity Theft

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Identity theft is a real problem that can cause a lot of headaches. Identity thieves can ruin your credit and cause financial damage. It takes time to clean up your credit report, reversing false charges on your credit cards and get stolen money refunded to your bank accounts. Prevent the headaches of identity theft by living smart and reducing the chances of it happening in the first place.

The best way to reduce the risk of identity theft is to be careful with your personal information. Guard your social security number and your account numbers. Be careful who you reveal your information to. Indentity thieves use many tricks to con people into giving away their private information. Follow these 10 basic steps to reduce the risk of identity theft.

  • Do not carry your social security card in your wallet. Instead, memorize your number.
  • Do not carry your birth certificate in your wallet or purse. Keep it safely at home.
  • Choose good passwords for your credit card, bank and loan accounts. A good password does not contain easy to guess information such as your birth date or your child’s name. Pick a password that does not contain any information that is easily linked to you.
  • Do not give out personal identification information over the phone or Internet, unless you initiated the contact. Identify thieves commonly call people or use fake emails or websites pretending to be a bank, credit card or loan company, in an attempt to get the person to divulge sensitive identity information.
  • Thieves commonly dig through a person’s trash to obtain sensitive information. Shred all mail that contains your personal identification information to prevent identity thieves from getting ahold of it.
  • Check your bank, credit card and loan statements carefully each month to catch fraudulent activity. Immediately report fraudulent activity if you find it.
  • Check your credit once a year. Every person is entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the credit agencies. By checking your credit report regularly, you can catch identity theft activity quicker. In addition to yearly free credit reports, you are entitled to additional free reports if you suspect fraudulent activity is taking place under your social security number. So, if you suspect identity theft is happening, you don’t need to wait a year to check your credit for free.
  • Report stolen credit cards, identification cards, social security cards, bank checks and other sensitive information immediately.
  • Install a firewall program on your computer. A firewall program blocks users from accessing your computer information remotely and stealing your person information.
  • Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer. Some computer virus and spyware programs log information that you input into your computer and send the information over the Internet to identity thieves.

Following the above 10 tips will reduce your risks of identity theft significantly. Nothing you can do will guarantee that your credit is safe, however. If identity theft occurs, despite your safe practices, file a report with the police and contact the credit bureaus and your credit card, bank and loan companies to report the theft.

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