With the prevalence of the Internet in our society and the convenience of payment methods like credit cards, debit cards, auto-pay and Pay Pal, identity theft has become more and more common. While there is no way to guarantee that someone will not try to steal your personal information for their own financial gain, there are certain steps you can take to protect yourself:
1) Place all of your phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, www.FTC.gov
2) Cell phone numbers are soon to be released to telemarketing companies. You can place your cell phone number(s) on the national do not call registry by calling the following number from each of your cell phones: (888) 382-1222.
3) Never let your credit or debit card out of your sight. Insist that the store clerk or restaurant server swipe the card in your presence. Pay cash whenever possible.
4) Request to be removed from all marketing lists, be they regular mail or e-mail
5) Shred all documents with personal information including unsolicited credit offers
6) For each company with whom you transact online business, use strong passwords. Change your passwords regularly
7) Request to be excluded from nationwide consumer credit reporting lists by calling 1-888-5OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688)
8) Secure all wireless Internet connections, home and office, with encryption
9) Secure all computers and PDA’s with antivirus software. Many companies offer free versions that can be adequate or inexpensive versions for more thorough protection.
10) Obtain a copy of your Social Security Earnings and Benefit Statement and look for earnings from unknown employment
11) Obtain a free copy of your consumer credit report every four months rotating between the three major credit agencies (Equifax, Experian, Transunion)
12) Take advantage of Illinois’ security freeze law. A security freeze prohibits a credit reporting agency from releasing your credit report or credit score without your express written authorization. To place a freeze, you must send a request in writing by certified mail to each of the three major credit agencies. A small fee may be charged but must be waived if you are age 65 or older. You may lift the freeze any time you apply for credit. The freeze must be lifted within 3 business days. You should be certain to follow up with the credit agencies to ensure that the freeze is reinstated after the release of your credit report.
It can be difficult to locate those responsible for identify theft. There are both criminal and civil penalties available for such behavior. However, it is best to try and prevent identify theft before it occurs.