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20 Tips To Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft affects almost 8.4 million Americans each year. Protecting your identity from getting stolen is just as important as protecting your home from getting burgled. This article provides you some of the suggestions that you can follow to safeguard your personally identifiable information.

Tip 1: Be cautious of shoulder surfing

While approaching the ATM, writing a check or even filling out an application form, look around whether any one suspicious is lurking nearby or not. While adding your pin stand in front of the ATM to block the view that others might gain. Shoulder surfing can be done from a distance with the help of binoculars, camera or may be a digital recorder. So, in an ATM counter always look around to ensure that no one is recording your transaction.

Tip 2: Do not publicly speak about your sensitive information

Speak quietly over the phone in public if you have to give out any kind of sensitive personal information like your SSN or credit card number.

Tip 3: Inspect the ATM

Only use ATMs that are in properly-lit locations. Before inserting your card, check thoroughly the ATM to see whether there is anything that looks out of place or appears to be tampered with.

Tip 4: Do not fall prey to the “lucky winner scams

You must have received dozens of mails and calls that state that you have been chosen as a lucky winner! All you have to do is give out your personal info like your name, address, credit card number, bank account number so that you can grab your FREE gifts that are worth of thousands of dollars. Doesn't it sound good? But things that look good at the beginning turn ugly when you get aware of the truth. And the truth in this case is such kinds of mails and calls are one of the many ways that the identity crooks use to obtain your sensitive personal information.

Tip 5: Check out the reliability of the company before making any deal over the phone

It is not wise to divulge your personal information to a “cold caller". If you receive such kind of calls where the person at the other end is offering you a tempting deal then it is advisable that you first check the reliability of the company and the caller. As cold calling to get access to bank account details, credit card PIN and other sensitive info is another tactic employed by identity fraudsters. So, do not make hasty decisions and do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics.

Tip 6: Never let your credit card go out of your sight

Always keep an eye on your card as there is always a chance of it being skimmed. In situations where it is not possible to keep a close eye on the card then pay with cash.

Tip 7: Be a smart credit card user

Maintain a record of your credit card charges every month. And when your monthly statement arrives, check the records against the charge activities included in your statement for any discrepancies, erroneous information, or fraudulent activities on your card.

Tip 8: Be careful with checkbooks

Do not write any other information other than your name and address on your checks. Never sign blank checks. Keep a well-organized checkbook so that you can easily notice any checks that are missing or unaccounted for.

Tip 9: Keep your contact address always updated

If you are changing your home then notify your bank and other institutions with which you are doing business about the address change.

Tip 10: Report lost or stolen credit cards and debit cards as soon as possible

The moment you discover that one of your credit cards or debit cards is stolen, contact the issuing bank immediately.

Tip 11: Do not choose obvious passwords or PIN numbers

While choosing your password or PIN don't go for the obvious ones. Your name, your mother's maiden name, telephone number, birthday are all predictable and are easy to find out.

Tip 12: While traveling do not carry items that have your personal information

It is advisable not to carry your passport, Social Security card, health insurance card or birth certificate in your wallet. Also, do not carry dozens of credit cards. It would be wise if you photocopy everything important you carry so that if your wallet gets stolen you can easily cancel things.

Tip 13: Check your credit report carefully

Thoroughly review your credit report (get it free from or by calling 877-322-8228) at least once a year to look for discrepancies or erroneous information. If you notice anything suspicious then alert the bureau as well as the information provider immediately. You can also avail a credit protection service that will alert you any time a change takes place in your credit report.

Tip 14: Beware of the "phishing" emails

If you receive an e-mail purporting to be from an authentic organization such as your bank or credit card provider or even reputed business entities like AOL, PayPal, Earthlink, Best Buy and eBay that asks you to divulge your usernames, passwords, SSN, bank account and credit card details in a direct or indirect manner then do not reply.

Tip 15: Be careful what you throw away in your trash

Before throwing the documents that contain sensitive information into the trash it is suggested that you shred them.

Tip 16: Keep a close watch on your billing cycles

Follow up with your creditors if your monthly statements and bills don't arrive on time. A lost credit card bill might indicate that an identity crook has changed the billing address and is using your identity.

Tip 17: Do not mail bills or documents that include sensitive personal information (like tax forms or checks) from your personal mail box

It's a two minutes job for an identity thief to take mail out of your mailbox on the street. Thus, it is better to personally take the important documents to the post office or an official postal service mailbox.

Tip 18: Protect your computer from hackers

Make sure you have the latest updated version of anti-virus software that includes spy ware, personal firewall, anti key loggers, anti hacker tools and spam filter.

Tip 19: Always type the URL address manually while shopping online

It is often noticed that identity crooks put up sites that resemble popular shopping websites to get bank account numbers and credit card information from the customers when they try to place an order. Thus, it is advisable to type the URL manually when you are shopping online.

Tip 20: Do not click on "save" password while using public computers

When you are accessing banking details or checking your mails from a computer that is used by other people, ensure that you are not saving the password, as any other user can gain access.

Discover more information on this topic at DebtCC community forums.

Help I had my identity stolen online. A company ca...
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Help I had my identity stolen online. A company called MYCASHNOW and credit protection depot, not sure who is who, they are debiting hundreds of dollars out of my checking account. I went to the bank and they were the ones who helped me come up with the names listed. I have contacted the attorney general office in TN and also consumer affairs, and a private attorney. I tried to call these people myself..well they were rude and nasty. They are useless. I need to try and resolve most of this on my own, attorney fees are high. Need all the help I can get. Last year I had this happen and put A fraud alert on my credit account, I was to be contacted personally if any tried to open an loan or credit application under my social security number, but no I was never aware of this MYCASHNOW until it was to late.

Thank you Sunshine...I will cut and paste my post to you so everyone will know where we are with this..

Sub: #1 posted on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:16

RoxyNY RoxyNY
(Posts: 4178 | Credits: )

Sunshine, Welcome. We can help you with this. I see you are in TN. my cash now is an internet pay day loan company and Credit Protection depot is usually used but them for collections but they are part of the same company. My Cash Now is not licensed to do business in TN. You fraud alert would not have caught this becuase they do not pull any kind of credit report before giving you a loan. What did your bank do about your account....

Sub: #2 posted on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:17

RoxyNY RoxyNY
(Posts: 4178 | Credits: )

Did you apply on line for any payday loans at all! They shre info and use different names. The new thing is an "identity theft protection company" will piggy back its way to your account and charge you a membership fee that you did not agree to.

Sub: #3 posted on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:18

Frogpatch Frogpatch
Moderators Cum Industry Expert
(Posts: 5382 | Credits: )

Thank you all very much for your concern, I was looking on line but never signed up for anything, I am unaware what steps to take from here. I had to closed out my account. They are emailing me, constantly. Wanting money, I don't owe.

Sub: #4 posted on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:26

sunshinetn71 sunshinetn71

(Posts: 8 | Credits: )

If you feel you are a victum of identity theft, you need to file a police report as a matter of formality, even though nothing "physical" was stolen. This will protect you from liability in case your info is used in other ways.

Sub: #5 posted on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:29

volleyballmom volleyballmom

(Posts: 4143 | Credits: )

If you were looking on line, did you fill out any applications ?
Even if you did not "formally "accept any offers , your info was put out there.

Sub: #6 posted on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:36

kashzan kashzan

(Posts: 5401 | Credits: )

Thank do I do that. What would I tell the police department. How do you explain online theft?

Sub: #7 posted on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:37

sunshinetn71 sunshinetn71

(Posts: 8 | Credits: )

You are right Kashzan! I might have but in to much info. I feel so stupid, I should have never put info online like that, to people I don't even know

Sub: #8 posted on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:40

sunshinetn71 sunshinetn71

(Posts: 8 | Credits: )

Here is a fantastic site about what to do if you are faced with Identity Theft:


2. Law enforcement. Report the crime to your local police or sheriff's department right away. You might also need to report it to police department(s) where the crime occurred if it's somewhere other than where you live. Give them as much documented evidence as possible. Make sure the police report lists the fraudulent accounts . Get a copy of the report, which is called an "identity theft report" under the FCRA. Keep the phone number of your investigator handy and give it to creditors and others who require verification of your case. Credit card companies and banks may require you to show the report in order to verify the crime.

FTC regulations define an "identity theft report" to include a report made to a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency. If your local police department refuses to file a report and your situation involves fraudulent use of the U.S. mail, you can obtain an identity theft report from the U.S. Postal Inspector. If your case involves fraudulent use of a driver's license in your name, you might be able to obtain a report from your state's Department of Motor Vehicles.

Sub: #9 posted on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:40

volleyballmom volleyballmom

(Posts: 4143 | Credits: )

The site has an article on the steps to do if you are an id theft victim.

Step 1: Place a fraud alert on your credit files and monitor your credit reports regularly.

Contact any of the three consumer reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit report, also provide the bureau a ???????victim???????s statement???????? asking the creditors to notify you before opening any new accounts or changing your existing accounts. This can help prevent an identity crook from opening any new accounts in your name.

To set up a fraud alert you can contact one of the three bureaus and ask them to flag your credit report for fraud. Usually the call is directed to an automated voice response system.

Though the bureau you call is required to share the fraud alert data with the other two, but there have been incidents that show this process does not work so properly. Hence, your best option is to contact each bureau individually to place a fraud alert. Given below are the toll free numbers of the fraud department of the credit bureaus:

Equifax : 1-800-525-6285; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Experian : 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion : 1-800-680-7289; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Once you activate a fraud alert, each of the bureaus will send you a current copy of your credit report by mail. You will be also opted out of pre approved credit card and insurance offers. The reports should arrive in one to two weeks. Once you receive your credit reports, review them carefully.

Step 2: Close the accounts that you know, or believe, are not opened by you or have been tampered.

Close all accounts that have been opened or used fraudulently by the identity thief. Request the creditors to report the closed accounts as "account closed at consumer's request," because a simple ???????closed account??????? can reflect poorly on your credit report. You must call and speak with the creditors for the accounts that have been opened fraudulently or are fiddled.

Ask each creditor to send you the copies of the transaction records that the identity thief made from your account. The creditors must provide you and your investigating law enforcement agency the requested paperwork and they cannot even impose a charge on offering you the service.

If they do not respond to your request then you must follow up in writing. You might find it hard to get the documents from the creditors, but don't give up. Send your letters by certified mail via RRR so that you can keep document everything that the creditor received and when. Maintain a record of your correspondence and enclosures.

Step 3: File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) .

You can lodge a complaint with the FTC by using the online complaint form; or else you can also call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877- 438-4338; TTY: 1-866-653-4261. You can also notify FTC in writing by sending a letter to Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. If you have to update your complaint, in case you had forgotten to provide some information or have any other additional information then you can call the FTC Identity Theft Hotline.

Step 4: Contact your local police or the police in that community where the identity theft took place and lodge a complaint.

Notify your local police department about the crime. You must provide as much proof as you can, it is advisable to give the police department a printed copy of your FTC ID Theft Complaint form, your cover letter, and all other paperwork that support your claims.

Make sure the police report includes all the accounts that have been affected. Get a copy of the report (the police report with your ID Theft Complaint attached) and send it to all the creditors of the affected accounts as a proof of the crime. If you can't get a copy from the police department, at least get the number of the report.

Step 5: Change all your account passwords.

In case of loss or theft of ATM or debit card, then do not use your old PIN for your new card. If an account does not have a password, it is advisable that you add one. Avoid selecting obvious passwords.

Source: theft.html

Sub: #10 posted on Mon, 03/10/2008 - 04:58

Good Nelly Good Nelly
Industry Expert
(Posts: 2800 | Credits: )

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