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November 02, 2009

Five steps to prevent identity theft

Five steps to prevent identity theft - straight from

1. Hang on to your credit card

Culprits who steal identities can get into your records in a blink. Devices as small as a cigarette lighter can be used to "skim" information from any card with a magnetic strip -- even while a sales associate is processing a legitimate transaction.

A re-encoded or cloned credit card is created with another person's name on the front, and the victim's personal info on the magnetic strip. Full service gas stations "have been notorious" for this type of ID theft, Suffolk Police Det. Thomas Gabriele says. Instead, pay by cash, or swipe your card at the self-service island and pump the gas yourself wherever possible.

2.  Get ID theft protection

If a new account is opened by a thief using your personal information, the delinquent payments will be reported to a credit bureau, damaging your credit.

Obtain a free report from the three major credit bureaus,, and (It's important to check all three because they may not all have the same information.) Once you are certain all of the credit information is correct, you can put security measures such as passwords in place.  [ok, I don't agree with this.  Instead, you should get your free credit report via via the written form you can fill out to request your credit reports.  This form (unlike the websites listed above) does not have any arbitration clauses that potentially take away your rights.]

3.  Watch the mail

Thieves may be after more than checks in your mailbox. They also can copy personal information from official correspondence. Install a locked security mailbox, opened with a key. If you are receiving checks, have them deposited directly into your bank account instead of sent to your home.

4.  Better to shred

Any piece of mail with an account number or a code could be used to invade your privacy. That includes a bank statement, medical bills -- even shopping catalogs with codes on the back. If it bears an account number or code, shred before trashing. An inexpensive crosscut paper shredder costs less than $50.

5.  Password diversity

Use different passwords for all your accounts and don't use ones that will tell thieves your personal information, such as your birth date.

If your password is breached, a thief can run rampant with it. For accounts that require passwords, create something new and unique. Write them down and file them in a safe place so they can be referenced when you need them.

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