Deter Identity Theft

Protect Your Personal Information
Some simple steps can make a big difference. For example, shred sensitive documents instead of simply throwing them away. Also, be absolutely sure you know who you're dealing with before giving any personal or financial information. OnGuard Online, a site created by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), offers additional information on preventing identity theft.

Avoid Using Your Social Security Number
Ask companies and government agencies you do business with if you can create an alternate customer identifier. Most good companies will accomidate you with this request. However, there still may be situations where you may be required to provide your social security number. If at all possible, don't use it as an id to access information in your account.

Monitor Your Accounts and Financial Statements
Promptly read any statements or correspondence when they arrive. Make sure there are no changes or transactions you did not initiate.
Maintaining a close eye on your account, you can spot suspicious activity and take steps to notify officials.
The accounts that you hold with your bank, phone company, utility companies and e.commerce providers should be monitored regularly. If a bill arrives unusually late or not at all, call the company.

Also, as of September 1, 2005, US residents are entitled to receive one free credit report every 12 months. These reports are from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, and can be requested at Be sure to monitor your credit for inaccuracies.

Some Warning Signs of Identity Theft
Identity theft warning signs include:
Observing unauthorized charges or withdrawals
Not receiving renewed credit cards, bills, or other mail
Getting credit cards for which you did not apply
Recieving notices for changes to the account you did not initiate
Credit denial(s) for no apparent reason
Communications by mail or phone about items or services you didn't buy

Although errors do occur, never assume that a mistake has been made and will automatically be corrected. Follow up with the business or institution is a must.

Act Quickly If You Suspect Identity Theft
If you suspect that your personal information has been comprimised, immediately:

Review your credit reports & notify credit agencies
Place a fraud alert on your accounts
Close any accounts that have been comprimesed or opened without your consent
File a report with the police
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

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