Keep Your Identity Safe With These Six Strategies
Jim Wang and Kimberly Palmer
How to Avoid the Latest Tax Scam
If you get an E-mail from the
Reports of this kind of "phishing fraud" have popped up throughout the country in recent weeks, according to computer
security company McAfee. The company reports that about a month ago, a series of fraudulent websites were created and
they're now being used to trick people into sharing personal information online. Consumers who use the
This kind of scheme is a common one, according to
How can you tell the difference?
Here are six more ways to keep your identity safe:
Securely dispose of mail.
Have you ever heard of Dumpster diving? Thieves love to dive into dumpsters and discover unshredded documents containing sensitive information they can use for their nefarious identity thieving deeds. That's why it's important for you to shred everything with a cross-cut shredder, which chops paper and plastic into little pieces, making a document nearly impossible to put it back together. We are all usually acutely aware of how to cancel a credit card, but then we take that card and toss in the trash. Shred everything.
Opt out of junk mail. OptOutPrescreen.com is a website set up by the credit reporting industry to let you opt-out of firm offers of credit. By signing up and opting out, you will not receive unsolicited offers of credit, such as new credit cards, and you'll reduce one of the most common ways your identity could be stolen: through your mailbox. This doesn't stop your current credit card company from sending you offers; it only stops "unsolicited" offers. To do that, call your credit card company and ask to opt out of their internal marketing campaigns. If you want to stop other forms of junk mail, this PrivacyRights.org page has a lot of great tips.
Use a P.O. box.
A post office box is a great way to add a layer of anonymity to your everyday activities and get the added benefit of
securing your mail, if your mail isn't behind lock-and-key. Many people use their P.O. box as their permanent address for
accounts that permit it, which makes it harder for an identity thief to discover your name and your actual address, since
most of your documents will list your P.O. box. If your mailbox doesn't have a lock, you might want to get a P.O. box simply because they are more secure (or buy a lockable mail box). P.O. boxes vary in size, are accessible around the clock, and can be very cheap. The
Review your credit reports.
Remember to review your credit reports annually. If you are the victim of identity theft, you want to detect it as early as possible so you can limit the damage. By reviewing your reports every year, you can catch suspicious accounts and new addresses listed, both signs of identity theft, as quickly as possible. It's also a good idea to review your reports for honest errors as well. Fixing them can often take several weeks, if not months, so you want to fix them as they appear.
Use fraud alerts.
You can call any of the credit bureaus and put a fraud alert on your account. Once you call on a credit bureau, it will notify the other two and the fraud alert will be active at those bureaus as well. The fraud alert warns a potential creditor to do additional due diligence before extending credit. The idea is that credit reports with a fraud alert have already been compromised, so the creditor should do extra work to ensure that they are giving credit to the right person. The bureau isn't required to do this, but they probably will because ultimately, they could lose money.
Credit score monitoring.
Some say credit score monitoring isn't necessary, certainly not one with a monthly fee, but you can use free credit score monitoring from Credit Karma as an early detection sensor for fraud. Credit Karma doesn't give you a the official FICO score -- it's a
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Personal Finance - Keep Your Identity Safe With These Six Strategies
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