ID Theft Prevention:
Protect Your Personal Information

One of he most important aspects of keeping your identity safe is protecting your personal information.

Adopt a "need to know" approach concerning your personal information. Do not give out any kind of account information or your social security number unless absolutely necessary. Know the reasons why any person would be asking for this information and know whether it is actually necessary.

You may need to give out your social security number or your mother's maiden name to verify your identity in some cases, but think about whether an institution asking for this information already has your it on file. If so, there is no reason for you to give it out again.

If you ever need to give out your personal information to an organization, make sure it's a reputable financial institution or company. If it's a name you've never heard before, think twice: check with the Better Business Bureau to see if this is indeed a legitimate company and whether or not they have been receiving confidentiality complaints. Know who you're dealing with!

If someone calls you on the phone or emails you and offers you a chance to win a prize or credit but asks for your personal data, do not give this information out over the phone or through email. Instead, ask them to mail you a paper application instead. If they refuse, you are not interested. If they do send an application, read over the terms carefully and make sure the application is going to a company that's well known and reputable. Check with the Better Business Bureau.

Even if you get an unexpected call or email from your bank or the police, be weary about giving out your personal information and PIN numbers. Ask if you can call them back and check the phone number to see if it is actually from where the caller says they are from. Never click on a link in an unsolicited email even if it's from an institution you deal with. Instead, type in the URL you know and follow links from there.

If you need to give out personal information over the phone or internet for whatever reason (you may be traveling and needing to contact your bank) do not do this in a public place where people can overhear you or see over your shoulder. If you're in a telephone booth, close the door. Never use computers in an internet café to transmit personal information - use the computer in your hotel room instead, and delete all history, cookies, and temporary online and offline files when you're done.

Don’t write unnecessary information like you social security number or birth date on your cheques. Remember, the more personal information you give out, the easier it is to steal.

Protect personal information on your home or personal computer by installing firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software on your computer and keeping them up to date. If you dispose of or sell your personal or home computer, make sure the entire hard disk is erased and the computer's memory is cleared.

Remember to follow these common-sense precautions and your chances of falling victim to identity theft are greatly lowered.


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