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How to avoid identity theft

BS Bureau in Mumbai | October 14, 2004

Globally, over 500,000 people are victims of identity theft each year. All of them face years of lost money and unending frustration as they work to clean up the mess.

The best protection always is prevention. Here are some tips to safeguard your good name, from

  • Be watchful of shoulder-surfers. At ATMs and phone booths, thieves will stand close enough to see PIN numbers punched in by users.
  • Mind those credit card receipts, especially since only a few credit card receipts have stopped listing full account numbers and expiration dates. Put the charge slip copies in a safe spot until your credit card bills arrive.
  • Ideally, buy a shredder and use it. Shred everything, including credit card receipts (after you've reconciled your bill), old bank statements, medical statements, everyday bills, and pre-approved credit card offers. Any document that has personal financial information on it can give an identity thief a foothold into your life.
  • Write clearly on all credit applications. Consistently and completely fill in all credit and loan applications using your full name, first, middle and last. Every bill that comes to your house should be addressed exactly the same.
  • Monitor your credit accounts carefully, so you'll know if a bill's missing or unauthorised purchases have been made. Close out unused credit cards. Cutting them up is not enough.
  • Limit the number of credit cards you carry. The fewer cards you have, the easier it is to track them.
  • If you're moving, contact all your creditors and update them of your address changes immediately. You don't want credit information and new credit cards being delivered to the wrong address. Likewise, if your credit card expires and you don't receive a new one, call your creditor immediately.
  • Don't provide your credit card number to anyone who contacts you through telephone solicitation.
  • Make sure any online credit card charges are handled through a secure site or in an encrypted mode. You'll know you're on a secure site if the web page on which you conduct your transaction begins with 'https' instead of the usual 'http'.
  • Only shop on websites that offer a privacy policy. Know how your personal information will be handled. Print out privacy policies, warranties, price guarantees and other important information.

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