Follow these tips to help avoid being a victim of identity theft.
- Keep the amount of personal information in your purse or wallet to the bare minimum. Avoid carrying additional credit cards, your social security card or passport unless absolutely necessary.
- Guard your credit card when making purchases. Shield your hand when using ATM machines or making long distance phone calls with phone cards. Don’t fall prey to “shoulder surfers” who may be nearby.
- Always take credit card or ATM receipts. Don’t throw them into public trash containers, leave them on the counter or put them in your shopping bag where they can easily fall out or get stolen.
- Do not give out personal information. Whether on the phone, through the mail or on the Internet, don’t give out any personal information unless you have initiated the contact or are sure you know who you are dealing with and that they have a secure line.
- Proceed with caution when shopping online. Use only authenticated websites to conduct business online. Before submitting personal or financial information through a website, check for the locked padlock image on your browser’s status bar or look for "https://" (rather than http://) in your browser window. If you have any concerns about the authenticity of a Web page, contact the owner of the site to confirm the URL.
- Be aware of phishing and pharming scams. In these scams, criminals use fake emails and websites to impersonate legitimate organizations. Exercise caution when opening emails and instant messages from unknown sources and never give out personal, financial or password related information via email.
- Make sure you have firewall, anti-spyware and anti-virus programs installed on your computer. Keep these programs up to date.
- Monitor your accounts. Don’t rely on your credit card company or bank to alert you of suspicious activity. Carefully monitor your bank and credit card statements to make sure all transactions are accurate. If you suspect a problem, contact your credit card company or bank immediately.
- Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. A new law that took effect Dec. 1, 2004, entitles you to one free credit report per year. Your credit report contains information on where you work and live, the credit accounts that have been opened in your name, how you pay your bills and whether you've been sued, arrested or filed for bankruptcy. Make sure it's accurate and includes only those activities you've authorized.
- Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, any part of your Social Security number or phone number or any series of consecutive numbers. If you suspect a problem with your credit card, change your password.
- Shred any documents containing personal information such as credit card numbers, bank statements, charge receipts or credit card applications, before disposing of them.
In order to make it more difficult for identity thieves to open accounts in your name, you can also contact the fraud department of any of the three credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on your credit report—by law, the agency you contact is required to contact the other two agencies. The fraud alert tells creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
If you are the victim of a crime, report it to the credit card company and police immediately. Ask for a copy of the police report. You will need it if you want to file an insurance claim or report the crime to the FTC for their assistance. Victims of identity fraud can contact the FTC online or at 877-IDTHEFT.
If you have questions about insurance for identity theft, contact The Glatfelter Agency at 800.632.1884.
Identity Theft Insurance