In this ever increasing and more complex information age in which we are all living, the potential for theft of your identity and the ease with which a criminal is able to use someone else’s identity for his own gain are on the rise. For that reason, it is important to reveal as little personal identifying information as possible. It is a good idea to keep your personal information in a secure area and to shred documents and other identifying information, rather than to discard those documents in the garbage.
There are a number of things that you can do to protect yourself, although there is no complete fix to this problem yet available. Please consider these helpful tips:
- In utilizing a checking account, have your last name but not your first name printed on the check. Use your initials instead. If checks are stolen or misplaced, the person taking them will not know how you sign them. Also, do not print your Social Security number or your home telephone number on your checks. If you must include a telephone number, consider utilizing your work number instead of your home number.
- When paying bills by check, do not reference the entire credit card account number on the memo line-just use the last four digits of that number.
- We carry many important items in our wallets. It is important to keep a photocopy of all of those items, both front and back, in a safe place. By photocopying your credit cards, you have quick access to the account numbers and the telephone numbers needed in the event the cards are stolen. It is important, particularly with credit cards, that immediate contact is made with the companies, so that you limit your liability for fraudulent purchases by someone else.
- When you travel, keep an extra photocopy of your passport and driver’s license with you in case the originals are lost or stolen.
- If your wallet and important information are stolen:
Immediately notify the police and file a report.
Contact the three national credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert against your name and Social Security number.
The three major credit card bureaus are:
- Equifax at 1-800-685-1111
- Experian at 1-888-397-3742
- Transunion at 1-800-916-8800
Periodically, you should obtain a copy of your credit report from the three credit reporting bureaus. Although there is a fee for this service, it affords you an opportunity to make certain that there are no unauthorized transactions listed within these reports and that all information is accurate.
We trust the above has been a helpful summary. If you should desire more information about this topic, you can go to the internet at www.identitytheft.org or to www.privacyrights.org, or contact our office via email or at 724-837-0080 in Greensburg or toll free at 888-534-6016.