To stay safe from identity theft, always seek safe banking and financial methods:
1. Keep account numbers and PIN numbers safe. Cover your account and PIN numbers when using debit at the store and decline to give your PIN number to anyone. Refrain from writing down your PIN and account numbers - you never know when this information could fall into the wrong hands.
2. Only do business with businesses you trust.
3. If you get applications for credit cards in the mail that are “pre-approved” rip up the applications and enclosed letters before getting rid of them. No, this is not paranoid. Identity thieves sometimes go through rubbish in order to find these forms so that they can fill them out and steal your identity.
4. If you use a computer, install good firewall and antivirus protection system and update it regularly. Better yet, take a course in safe computing at your local college or community center. You will learn many good tips for keeping all your information safe while you are online.
6. Even with all computer safety measures, avoid giving private information via email or your computer. Be especially cautious if you get an email from your bank asking you to verify your information by clicking on a link - this is a favorite scam that comes not from your bank but from criminals pretending to be your bank. Ignore the email and contact your bank about the message.
7. Be wary of unsolicited emails, phone calls, or mail advertisements. Most are from authentic companies but there are companies who pledge you a credit card over the telephone only to charge your current credit card without sending you anything.
Likewise, letters will sometimes promise you particular items or services. Once you send in your credit card information (usually to a post office box) you hear no more from the company. If you need or want to buy something from a company, be sure to check the company’s standing with the Better Business Bureau first.
Send a money order rather than a check (which had your account number) or your credit card information. If you do use a credit card, report any abnormal fees or any payments you made for a product that did not arrive to the credit card company.
In some cases, they can stop payment or refund your money as well as take steps to keep your credit card number secure.
8. Be careful of offers that seem too good to be true. If you get an offer for a ten million dollar check - for which you need to put down $5000 as a “sign in good faith”...if you get an offer for a free state-of-the art computer - if only you provide your account information... take a deep breath and consider, before sending in your money and your information.
Offers that are too good to be true always are. Scam artists often rely on your belief in others and your trust to make money. They depend on the fact that you will be so excited about a product or service that you will throw good judgement out the window. Prove them wrong.
When faced with an offer that seems too good to be true, do some research on the web, through the Better Business Bureau, or ask the person making the offer some questions. Never take someone up on an offer that you have been given unsolicited unless the company and the offer both check out.
9. Read the fine print. Some services or companies will have tiny print in their contract or agreement that allows them to charge you extra hidden fees or that allows them to retract certain offers. If you get an offer through email or the mail, make it a habit to read the fine print.
10. Be alert for a sudden interruption in your mail service. If you do not get mail for some time, contact your post office and ask if your address was newly submitted for a “change of address” service. It sounds weird, but it’s true.
One way that criminals defraud identities is to change your address at the local post office. They re-route your mail to a post office box number and steal your mail looking for personal information such as bank statements, pre-approved credit card applications, and other parts of mail they can use to steal your identity.
They use this information to pose as you with lenders and run up big charges in your name. Simply keeping an eye out on your mail can help you keep your credit score secure.