The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing and implementing a comprehensive program against identity theft -- in supporting victims of identity theft, broadening public awareness and understanding of identity theft, and decreasing the potential victim population.
From the ITRC comes these tips on things you can do to lessen your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Destroy papers you don't need: credit-card and ATM receipts, checks or deposit slips, health insurance benefit statements, paycheck stubs, tax records and preapproved credit-card offers. Buy a shredder and use it.
- Do not carry your Social Security number with you, never give it out unless absolutely necessary and do not have it printed on your checks.
- Check your credit report each year. Investigate any accounts you did not apply for directly. To check your credit, contact one of the three major agencies: TransUnion 800-888-4213 (www.tuc.com), Experian 888-EXPERIAN (www.experian.com), or Equifax 800-685-1111 (www.equifax.com). There is a fee for this service.
- Block your name from marketing lists and remove it from preapproved offers of credit by calling 888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
- Don't carry any personal information you don't need. Lost and stolen wallets are the most common way impostors get your information. Get credit cards with your picture on them. Cancel cards you no longer use.
- Keep confidential information in a locked area. Put a lock on your mailbox. Mail theft is a popular way to steal your identity.
- Use caution when buying on the Internet or over the phone, especially if you did not initiate the call. Beware of scam artists who say you've won a prize or qualify for a credit card if you verify your Social Security number first. Never give your personal information over the phone.
- Add passwords to bank, credit- card and utility accounts so only you or your closest relative has access.
- Pay attention to your credit card when you hand it to a store clerk. Don't let anyone walk away with it.
- Add site protection to your PC if you have an Internet connection to thwart hackers.
Take the "Identity Quotient (IQ) Test" to see how much at risk you are to identity theft.