Lower Your Identity Theft Quotient

How a person handles their personal information during everyday tasks could heighten (or lower) their chances of being a victim of identity theft. Here are some tips you can share with your customers for them to use and remember to help lower their “identity theft quotient.”

Social Security Number Protection

Don’t expose your social security number anywhere, this includes when you’re online.

Don’t carry your SSN in your purse or wallet

Don’t write it on checks, even if you are asked. If a merchant requests it, just say “no.”

Memorize your Social Security number and passwords. Don't use your date of birth as your password and don't record passwords on papers you carry with you.

Don’t fill in your SSN on forms that don’t require it by law.

Don’t let your school or employer use your SSN as identification.

Your Mail Is Yours, Not Everyone Should See It

Don’t leave your mail sitting in an unlocked mail box. Buy a mailbox with a lock.

Don’t raise the red flag and place bills to be mailed for your mail carrier.

Be aware of when all of your bills should arrive. If a bill doesn’t appear, contact the sender.

When moving, be sure to submit a change of address.

Opt out of pre-approved credit card offers at www.optoutprescreen.com

Sensitive Information Lockdown

Don’t leave your mail sitting around your house where visitors can see it. (Remember: Some identity theft is perpetrated by family, friends and acquaintances!)

Put your tax returns and financial spreadsheets away. If this type of information is stored on your home PC, make sure your PC is password protected.

Don’t leave your pay receipts and other financial records in your car, wallet, or briefcase.

Buy a cross-cut shredder and use it on everything that may contain valuable personal information. (This is important to note: your garbage isn’t the place to put sensitive data! Dumpster diving nets personal information that identity theives can use. What would they find in your garbage?)

Know What Is On Your Credit Report

Monitor your credit report to detect identity theft

You can order free annual credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies. (See related story for more information: https://www.bankinfosecurity.com/articles.php?art_id=467.)

Review all your credit report entries carefully.

If you find false entries, make sure to report them. It may be the start of identity theft.

Bank and Credit Card Information Protection

Look at your bank statements and credit card statements, look over all transactions.

When looking at your credit card statements, watch for small amount transactions, and keep track of them. Identity thieves will charge a small amount to see if the card is valid for use.

Verify all charges on your credit card and bank statements.

Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately.

If you applied for a credit card and didn't receive it when expected, call the card issuers or your financial institution.

Sign new credit cards immediately--before someone else does.

Closely monitor expiration dates on your credit cards and contact the issuer if you don't receive a replacement prior to the expiration date.

Never leave transaction receipts at ATM machines, on counters at financial institutions, or at gasoline pumps.

Know when your bank and credit statements should arrive in your mail.

Staying Private in Public

Public computers at libraries and other convenient locations are great. But don’t use them to check your bank account or your email that contains sensitive information.

Don’t log on to websites and enter your passwords. You can’t be certain if the computer is “clean” of viruses or other computer software that could send your information to another computer.

Don’t click on “save my information for next time” when prompted on any computer.

About the Author

Linda McGlasson

Linda McGlasson

Managing Editor

Linda McGlasson is a seasoned writer and editor with 20 years of experience in writing for corporations, business publications and newspapers. She has worked in the Financial Services industry for more than 12 years. Most recently Linda headed information security awareness and training and the Computer Incident Response Team for Securities Industry Automation Corporation (SIAC), a subsidiary of the NYSE Group (NYX). As part of her role she developed infosec policy, developed new awareness testing and led the company's incident response team. In the last two years she's been involved with the Financial Services Information Sharing Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), editing its quarterly member newsletter and identifying speakers for member meetings.

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