Prevent ID Theft by Following the SCAM Formula
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Is there an easy way to remember the basics for preventing identity theft?
If using acronyms helps you to remember important data, then commit this one to memory to help prevent identity theft. It will remind you of the fundamentals for minimizing risks of becoming a victim.
- STINGY: Be stingy – keep your personal information personal and ask questions of those who want you to part with it. Guard your Social Security number – it's like gold to identity thieves. And take extra precautions to keep your incoming and outgoing mail out of reach. If you will be out of town, ask your local post office to hold delivery until your return. And remember to shred unneeded documents that contain your personal information.
- CHECK: Check your financial information regularly. Review bank statements for unauthorized withdrawals, and check credit card accounts for fraudulent charges. Know your monthly cycles for receipt of statements and if one doesn't come, contact the institution immediately to report possible fraudulent activity. Verify your address to ensure someone has not hijacked your information with a change of address request.
- ASK: Ask to receive your credit report at least once a year from each of the credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. (It's free!) Review every account listed on the report. If you find accounts that you did not open or authorize, contact the reporting agency immediately to place a fraud alert on your report.
- MAINTAIN: Maintain records of your accounts for at least one year. They will be helpful if you ever need to dispute a specific transaction.
Other steps you can take to avoid identity theft include the following: Sign new credit cards immediately and write “Ask for ID” on them. Watch cashiers closely. Watch anyone who handles your checks or plastic cards. Memorize your Social Security number and passwords. Do not use your date of birth as your password and do not record passwords on papers you carry with you. When using an ATM, be aware of your surroundings, i.e., someone attempting to get your PIN number. Also, be wary of the machine itself. Check to make sure that the machine has not been retrofitted with a skimming device that would capture the details of the transaction. Never leave transaction receipts at ATM machines, gas stations or points of sale.