Friday, April 20, 2007

12 Tips to Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft is becoming an increasing problem, with over 160,000 cases reported in the U.S. in 2002 and over 7,000 that year in Canada. So much of our personal information is available in the cards we carry in our wallets, credit card receipts, bank statements and utility bills that it is easy to be careless and place our finances, personal property, credit history and reputation at risk.


Here are some tips from Safe Canada to protect yourself from identity theft:

  1. Sign all credit cards when you receive them and never lend them to anyone.

  2. Cancel and destroy credit cards you do not use and keep a list of the ones you use regularly.

  3. Carry only the identification information and credit cards that you actually need. Do not carry your social insurance card (Canada) or social security card (United States); leave it in a secure place. This applies also to your passport unless you need it for traveling out of country.

  4. Pay attention to your billing cycles and follow up with your creditors and utility companies if your bills do not arrive on time.

  5. Carefully check each of your monthly credit card statements. Immediately report lost or
    stolen credit cards and any discrepancies in your monthly statements to the issuing credit card company.

  6. Shred or destroy paperwork you no longer need, such as bank machine receipts, receipts from electronic and credit card purchases, utility bills, and any document that contains personal and/or financial information. Shred or destroy pre-approved credit card
    applications you do not want before putting them in the trash.

  7. Secure personal information in your home or office so that it is not readily accessible to others, who may have access to the premises.

  8. Do not give personal information out over the phone, through the mail, or over the
    Internet unless you are the one who initiated the contact and know the person or
    organization with whom you are dealing. Before you share such information,
    ensure that the organization is legitimate by checking its website to see if it
    has posted any fraud or scam alert when its name has been used improperly, or by
    calling its customer service number listed on your account statement or in the
    phone book.

  9. Password-protect your credit card, bank, and phone accounts, but do not keep a written record of your PIN number, social insurance or social security number, or computer passwords where an identity thief can easily find them. Do not carry such information in your purse or wallet.

  10. Order a copy of your credit report from the major credit reporting agencies at least once every year. Check with the credit bureaus to see whether there is a charge for this service. Make sure your credit report is accurate and includes only those activities that you have authorized.

I would also suggest that you never allow sales staff to put your receipt in the bag; it’s too easy to forget it, toss the bag and your credit card information along with it.

Also, never leave your signed credit card receipt on the table in a restaurant when you leave; always ensure that you hand it directly to your server before leaving the restaurant. Ideally, you should accompany the server when he or she swipes your credit card to ensure they are not “double-swiping”. Embarrassing, yes, as it implies you don’t trust the server, but most good restaurants should appreciate their customers’ concerns.

Identity theft can be a nightmare for the consumer. Start following these tips today to protect your identity.

For more information:

In Canada: Safe Canada

In the U.S.: Federal Trade Commission

In the U.K.: Home Office

2 comments:

Deon Fialkov said...

Hi

I am a regular user on the very popular social networking website
Facebook and am very worried about the following scenario

A user or "friend" on my friend-list has information about me available to him for illegal purposes.
eg. Photos of me and friends
Date of birth
Location
Telephone number or cellnumber

What happens if he prints out this information, sets up another profile pretending to be me and tries to ruin my reputation by bad-mouthing people, etc?

Deon F
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Sharon E. Herbert said...

Deon,

This is a valid concern, regardless of which social networking site you are using. There have been many incidents of people impersonating others.

Facebook provides the following information in their Help - Privacy and Security section:

"Q: Someone created an account to impersonate me. What can I do?

A: Please contact us here with the exact name on the account and any networks listed. If possible, please also provide a URL to the profile page or the contact email associated with the account. We will look into this issue and take action according to our Terms of Use."

The usual result is that Facebook will shut down the fake account.

Hopefully this won't happen to you, but there is a process to follow in the event it does.

Cheers,
Sharon