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June 15, 2009

Article about preventing identity theft

Despite what LifeLock and other "identity theft prevention" companies claim, there is no way to completely prevent your identity from being stolen. But there are some common sense steps you can take to limit the risk of identity theft. Here are some of those steps, as summarized by Joe Campana at the Identity Theft Examiner:

"Do not carry any identification or card in your wallet or purse that has your social security number printed on it. Yes, this means do not carry your social security card, Medicare card, and health insurance cards.

Minimize the number of credit cards that you carry. The more you carry the greater the risk that you will be a victim of existing account fraud should your wallet or purse be stolen. The more cards you carry the greater the potential financial damage and complexity of your case."

[Of course, illegal access or use of your existing accounts is not identity theft but is instead "account takeover", a completely different animal that is much easier to fix than the problems that result from true identity theft.]

"Shred all documents that contain your name, social security number, date of birth, or account numbers before you discard them. Check that junk mail doesn’t contain your personal information, and if it does, shred it first, especially those preapproved credit card offers and credit card checks. ...

Protect your outgoing and incoming mail. Outgoing mail, which can be stolen, often contains your account numbers and other sensitive information. It is best to deposit your outgoing mail inside of your local post office so there is no chance for it to be stolen from your residential mailbox or from U.S. Post Boxes. Never leave your outgoing or incoming mail unattended. ...

Monitor what is inside of your mail too. Do you see unexplainable charges or items on your credit card, bank and medical statements? If so, it may be a clue that someone is misusing your identity or account numbers. Take action quickly. ...

Don’t be lured. Be careful of email, phone calls and snail mail that request your personal information. Don’t fall for phishing or vishing scams or other social engineering schemes.

Use basic on-line computer security and safe-surfing techniques. Use hardware and software firewalls; use anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware security software regularly and keep them up-to-date. Keep your operating system (Windows, MacOS) and software application security updates current. Never conduct e-commerce on a website unless it is secure. The website address should begin with "https://www. . . " The "s" means secure. Look for the closed lock on your browser's address bar."

All good tips from Joe Campana, but I like his last tip the best -

"Use common sense. Be aware, be careful and act sensibly."

For the rest of the article, see

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