Identity Theft Can Be Prevented

Identity theft can be prevented through a few smart steps

BY PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Edited by Ed Schainker

Hollywood often portrays identity theft as a comical event, but in reality being a victim of it is anything but funny.

It’s best to leave comedy to the comedians and save yourself from such grief by nipping identity theft in the bud. When it happens, at least know the immediate steps to take.

“Identity thieves are relentless in their pursuit of private information,” said Rick Brinkley, chief operating officer of the Tulsa Better Business Bureau. “It’s very important to be aware of all the ways to defend yourself and keep your identity safe. It’s always easier to avoid it than have to fix it after it occurs.”

Brinkley offers these tips for keeping your personal information secure.

Carry few cards: Carry only the cards you need in the immediate future. Minimize the identification information and the number of cards you carry in your wallet or purse. Do not carry your Social Security card unless you need it, say for a job offer. Cut up old or inactive credit cards and bank account statements.

Choose PIN wisely: For your ATM card, choose a personal identification number not associated with your address, telephone number, middle name, last four digits of your Social Security number, birth date or any information easily discovered by thieves.

Social Security number: Be careful about sharing it. When asked to provide it, ask how it will be used and what will happen if you refuse. Don’t carry your Social Security card with you on a daily basis. Leave it at home in a secure location.

Mailbox: Place outgoing mail in a secure mailbox. If you do not have a locked mailbox, pick up incoming mail as soon as possible.

Storage: Never store your private documents in unsecured locations, such as your car or office. At home, invest in a fireproof lock box or safe to store important documents.

Shred documents: Avoid storing unneeded documents bearing personal information: credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, health forms and billing statements. Shred these papers; trash cans are gold mines for identity thieves. Cross-cut shredders are available in eight-sheet capacity for $60 and up to 15 sheets for $100.

Receipts, bank statements: Monitor bank and credit card statements for fraudulent activity. Know what dates your bills arrive. Late or missing bills can indicate your information has been compromised.

Check credit reports: Check card account statements periodically for suspicious activity. Check your credit report annually.