You can reduce your likelihood of becoming an identity theft victim, as well as cut down on unwanted sales pitches, by following these guidelines:
REMOVE YOURSELF FROM CONTACT LISTS
- Register for Do Not Call. You can register a personal phone number online at www.donotcall.gov if you have an email address or call 1-888-382-1222, from the telephone or cell phone number you want to register.
- Remove your address from marketing lists. Make a request to the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service online at www.dmachoice.org or mail this request form. You'll pay $1. The organization also operates an email preference service.
- Contact the three major credit bureaus and ask to "Opt Out" of the pre-approved credit lists they sell to companies. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or make the request online at www.optoutprescreen.com.
- Contact your credit card companies to find out if any of your cardholder information can be given to partners or affiliates (third parties) of the card issuer. If so, ask for the address to write to cancel this authorization. You might want to use the phrase: "No third party solicitations."
CHECK YOUR CREDIT REPORT
- Order a free copy of your credit report from the only government-authorized Web site: www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. Other "free" credit report Web sites were designed to sell you products and services. You are allowed one report yearly from each of the three major participating bureaus, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.
SAFEGUARD YOUR INFORMATION
- Do not give your Social Security number, mother's maiden name or account numbers to strangers who contact you, especially by phone, Internet or mail. Identity thieves sometimes pose as business, bank or government representatives to get you to reveal personal information. Legitimate financial or government organizations that do business with you already have this information and will not ask for it by calling you. Be conservative when filling out warranty cards, subscription forms, prize-drawing cards and Web site registration forms.
- Understand Web site privacy policies. Most quizzes and surveys you find online, including those on social networking sites, are designed to gather your information.
- Defend your computer with the latest software and a firewall and delete online cookies.
- Put passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's name, your birthdate, the last four digits of your Social Security Number, your phone number or an easy series of numbers such as 1234.
- Don't carry PIN numbers, birth certificates, Social Security cards or passports unless absolutely necessary. Do not carry credit cards or ID cards you don't need.
- Guard your mail from theft. Don't leave outgoing mail in an unsecured mailbox. Use a locking mailbox or take it to a collection box or your local post office. Promptly remove mail after it has been delivered. If you are planning to be away from home, call the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 to request a vacation hold.
- Shred documents containing personal information.