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It's happened to just about everyone – someone asks you a personal question and you hesitate to answer. Yet, more often than not, you volunteer the information anyway despite the faint twinge of discomfort. Most times no real damage is done for having shared information, yet, when it comes to precautions you can take for identity theft protection, trusting your instincts is one of the best deterrents you have.
Here's a short of list of ‘instinctual behavior' that will help protect against identity theft:
If a company asks for your Social Security number, say no. Some businesses are still in the habit of setting up accounts with and using Social Security numbers as a form of ID. And if you check the health insurance card you carry in your wallet, you may be surprised to find that your account number is your Social Security number. Current legislation is calling for this practice to be stopped because it leaves the door wide open for identity thieves. If you are applying for a loan or credit card, filing your taxes, or submitting paperwork for a job, the request will be legitimate. Otherwise, get a reason for the request and make sure you're comfortable with the explanation before agreeing to provide your Social Security number.
Watch clerks and servers charge your credit card. While it may be a courtesy for a waitress or store clerk to save you the steps of paying your bill at the register, letting your credit card out of your sight is a risky practice. If it doesn't “feel right” to hand someone your card and have them disappear into the kitchen or a back room to run the charge, don't do it. Go to the register and witness the transaction yourself.
Be wary of fundraising calls. If you want to donate to a charity or support local fundraising efforts, take the initiative to contact the organization rather than respond to a phone call you receive at your home. Fundraisers, phone surveys, and callers claiming to need to verify your account information may be legitimate, but are also popular covers for fraud schemes. Giving out personal information and credit card information to unknown callers isn't being polite – it's being foolish.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|