Friday, February 8, 2008

Top 5 Identity Theft Prevention Tips

There are some important proactive steps that every consumer can take to safeguard their identity. We like to recommend these top five things everyone should do, or at least know about, to protect themselves and their family from becoming a victim of identity theft.
  1. Buy a shredder: Shredding all your personal information before tossing it in the trash will prevent dumpster divers from fishing out your pre-approved credit card offers. Shredders that cut lengthwise and crosswise are ideal as it minimizes the chances that potential thieves can tape your documents back together.

  2. Change your passwords monthly: Do you bank online? Or store personal information on your laptop? If so, it would be wise to change your password at least once a month and try to select passwords that will not be obvious to potential hackers (birthday, anniversary, pet name, etc.).

  3. Freeze your credit: If your data has been breached (electronically or via dumpster divers), there is not much an identity thief can do if your credit has been frozen... there is no way someone can open a line of credit (credit cards, house/car loans, etc) without access to your credit information, and you can say good-bye to those pesky and potentially dangerous pre-approved credit card offers.

  4. Beware of phishing scams: Scam artists "phish" for victims by pretending to be banks, stores or government agencies. They do this over the phone, in emails and in the regular mail. Don't give out your personal information, unless you made the contact. Don't respond to a request to verify your account number or password. Legitimate companies do not request this kind of information in this way.

  5. Protect your computer from spyware and viruses: Spyware programs can collect many different types of personal information about you like passwords and credit card numbers. Always use firewall, virus and spyware protection software that you update regularly like Norton Internet Security 2006. Only download free software from sites you know and trust.
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