Sunday, June 28, 2009

Buddy's Tips #002- Identity Theft: Prevention Suggestions

Protect all of your personal financial information. Make it a personal rule “NEVER” give out personal financial information (e.g. checking or credit card numbers; social security numbers) unless you have initiated the action or transaction and it is a legitimate purpose.

Ignore all e-mail spam asking for your information or verification or any other solicitation to gain information directly from you. Do not click on any link embedded in the e-mail. DELETE all of these e-mail as a personal rule of thumb.

Report lost or stolen credit cards or checks immediately. Both can be stopped or blocked immediately.

Carry one or two credit cards in your purse/wallet and never carry information with important numbers (e.g., Social Security Card, pay stubs, PIN numbers).

Buy a Shredder and shred all financial information, statements, account receipts, ATM receipts, bank deposit receipts, etc. with account numbers or personal financial information on it. Keep wallet and purse clean of receipts…empty your receipts daily into a closed container for security reasons. Use them to review your credit card statement monthly and then shred those receipts that you do not need to keep.

Guard your ATM PIN number and account receipts. Don't discard them.

Guard your mail (top security). Don't use your personal mail box to mail bills. Drop your bill payments in a regular mail drop box or at the Post Office itself. When you arrive home each day remove all mail from your personal mail box immediately.

Use “Bill Payer” (or a similar electronic bill paying program) at your local bank or credit union to pay your monthly bills. This will save writing a check (e.g., reduces exposure of your checking account number), save on the cost of postage (e.g., 44 cents per 1 ounce envelop in 2009) and fuel (e.g., driving to the drop box or post office to mail the bill) and time (e.g., on-line bill payment can take only seconds to accomplish). It also gives you a record of payment similar to your check and it reduces “check float” time, which saves you money on any mortgage payments (e.g., reduces interest paid).

Develop a tracking chart of your monthly billing, so you know when you usually receive your individual bills each month. If regular bills stop coming call the company and investigate why. Sometimes a false change of address is used to divert information.

Know your anticipated account balance (based on tracking chart). Check your statements carefully. If there is a discrepancy contact the company issuing the statement immediately. You have 30 days from receipt of statement to dispute a charge and begin corrective action.

Know your checking balance and verify it on-line or upon receipt of statement.

If you are suspicious about a bill investigate it and take immediate action!
o Contact the police and file a report.
o Contact lost or stolen card and fraud division of your bank, credit union, credit card issuers immediately!
o Contact the fraud division of the three major credit reporting agencies mentioned above.
o Contact Social Security Fraud Hotline: (800) 269-0271
o Contact the FTC Identity Theft Hotline: 1-(877)-438-4338

If you use an on-line computer install firewall software to prevent access and don’t put financial information directly on your computer.


Check your credit report for FREE every four months by contacting one of the three credit reporting companies and requesting a free copy of your credit report. This will allow you to monitor your credit report each year at no cost to you.

o Equifax ( (800) 685-1111 or (888) 766-0008 or (800) 525-6285
o Experian ( (888) 397-3742
o Trans Union ( (800) 916-8800 or (800) 680-7289


Federal Trade Commission web site:
Internet Crime Complaint Center:
Identity Theft Resource Center:
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse:
FTC free booklet:
“ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen to Your Good Name”, or
call (888) 687-2277 for a shorter version (ask for stock number D18052)