How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft
Identity theft is scary, but the good news is there are a lot of ways you can decrease the chances that someone will misuse your personal and financial information. The US Department of Justice has created the acronym SCAM to help us all remember the ways we can avoid becoming a victim of identify theft.
S is for Stingy
When it comes to giving out your personal information to others, it’s best to be stingy. While your credit card company may need to know your mother's maiden name to verify your identity when you call, anyone who calls you requesting that same information (that’s already on file with the bank) is only interested in acquiring it for personal benefit.
Don’t print so much information on your personal checks. Things like your Social Security number or home telephone number are not necessary items on a check.
Some scammers will call you with promises of a big prize. Never give your Social Security number, credit card number or expiration date, or mother's maiden name over the phone. Ask them to send a written application instead.
When you travel, have the post office hold your mail or ask a trusted friend or family member to pick it up. If while away from home you need to pass on personal financial information to another person by phone, do it in a non-public location.
C is for Check
Get into the habit of checking your financial information regularly, looking for what should be there and what shouldn't. Are you receiving monthly bank and credit card statements? If not call the financial institution or credit card company immediately. Sometimes criminals will have your statements mailed to another address
When you do receive your statements, make sure you review them for unauthorized debits or charges. A quick glance may not reveal unauthorized withdrawals or charges.
A is for Ask
On a regular, periodic basis, ask for a copy of your credit report(s). These list all bank and financial accounts under your name. It should be apparent if someone has wrongfully opened or used any accounts in your name.
M is for Maintain
Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts. It’s a good idea to keep monthly statements and checks for at least one year, if not more. If you need to dispute a particular check or transaction, especially if someone has forged your name, original records will be more convenient than obtaining copies from the bank.
SCAM – remember it and put these important safeguards on your calendar and to-do list today!