Five Precautions to Prevent Identity Theft
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How can I prevent identity theft?
Stories about stolen databases of highly sensitive personal data have made their way to the front page of every major newspaper across the country. It leaves all of us wondering how to prevent identity theft. With so much of our personal information already swapped and sold between countless databases, there is no one definitive way to stop identity theft. Here are five precautions you can take right now to help avoid identity theft:
- Request your credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three credit reporting agencies. Request them. Review them. Report discrepancies immediately. To request a report, call 877-322-8228 or go online to annualcreditreport.com.
- Check your accounts online frequently. Once or twice a week monitor your bank and credit card accounts to catch any unusual charges, changes or transfers that you did not authorize.
- Minimize traces of your bank account information. Instead of using a debit card that is imprinted with bank account information, pay with cash or a credit card.
- Exercise your opt-out options. Banks, insurance companies and brokerage firms must send you opt-out privacy notices with toll-free numbers or an address for you to request that your financial information not be shared with any other company or individual. Take the opportunity to keep your information from being added to other databases.
- Keep your SSN to yourself. Don't carry your Social Security number with you and only use it for tax, employment or credit purposes. Shred documents that have your SSN on them – or any other personal and account information – and if you don't have a locking mailbox, get one.
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