IDENTITY THEFT - Tips for Safeguarding Your Information
occurs when a criminal uses another person's personal information to take
on that person's identity. Criminals then use key pieces of information
such as Social Security and driver's license numbers to obtain credit,
merchandise and services in the name of the victim. The victim is left
with a ruined credit history and the time-consuming and complicated task
of regaining financial health.
While you probably
can't prevent identity theft entirely, you can minimize your risk. By
managing your personal information wisely, cautiously and with an awareness
of the issue, you can help guard against Identity Theft.
- Don't give your Social Security
number or other personal information over the phone, through the mail,
or over the Internet unless you've initiated the contact or are sure
you know who you're dealing with.
- Guard your trash from theft.
Tear or shred receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms,
physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards,
and credit offers you get in the mail.
- Secure personal information
in your home.
- Don't carry your Social
Security Number card; leave it in a secure place. Don't put your Social
Security Number or drivers license number on your checks.
- Give your Social Security
Number only when necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when
- Ask about information security
procedures in your workplace. Find out who has access to your personal
- Guard your mail from theft.
Deposit outgoing mail in secured mailboxes. Promptly remove your mail
from your mailbox.
- Notify your credit-card
company if your card has expired and you have not yet received a replacement.
- Carry only the identification
information and the number of credit and debit cards that you'll actually
- Pay attention to your billing
cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bills don't arrive on time.
- Scrutinize monthly billing
statements. Open bills promptly and check your accounts monthly. Look
for charges you don't recognize and report them immediately. Save receipts
to compare with your billing statements.
- Keep your eyes on your credit
card during all transactions and get it back as soon as possible.
- Keep a record of all your
credit card account numbers, expiration dates and the telephone numbers
and addresses of each creditor. Store in a safe place.
- Be wary of promotional scams.
Identity thieves may use phony offers to get you to give them your personal
- Keep your purse or wallet
in a safe place at work.
- Try not to divulge personal
information over a cell phone; they are not as secure as you may think.
- Review your monthly accounts
regularly for any unauthorized charges.
- Place passwords or PIN numbers for your credit cards, bank debit/ATM
card and phone accounts in a safe place. DO NOT write them on the cards.
Protect your PINs and passwords (don't carry them in your wallet!) Use
a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them
- Limit the amount of information
you place on your Internet homepage and websites detailing family genealogy.
- Choose to do business with
companies you know are reputable, particularly online.
- Use a secure browser
software for your computer that encrypts or scrambles information you
send over the Internet to guard the security of your online transactions.
When conducting business online, make sure your browser's padlock or
key icon is active.
- Don't open e-mail from unknown
sources, and use virus detection software. Update this software regularly,
or when a new virus alert is announced.
- Use a firewall program on
your computer, especially if you use a high-speed Internet connection
like cable, DSL or T-1, which leaves your computer connected to the
Internet 24 hours a day.
- Try not to store personal/financial
information on your laptop computer unless absolutely necessary. If
you do, use a strong password a combination of letters (upper
and lower case), numbers and symbols.
- Before you dispose of any
computer, delete personal information. Deleting files using the keyboard
or mouse commands may not be enough. Use a "wipe" utility
program to overwrite the entire hard drive.
- Look for website privacy
- Report any suspected fraud
to your bank and the fraud units of the three credit reporting agencies
immediately. The fraud unit numbers are:
Experian (888) 397-3742
Equifax (800) 525-6285
You may also contact
the FTC's ID Theft Consumer Response Center at (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338)
or visit their Identity Theft Website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft
- Tips for Safeguarding Your Business' Information
Identity theft is not something
that just happens to consumers. Businesses are victims as well. According
the U. S. Postal Inspection Service, corporations lose millions of dollars
every year from computer crime and credit card fraud that link to identity
theft. The main thrust of identity thieves is to obtain key pieces of
victims' identity - name, address, date of birth, social security number,
and mother's maiden name - in order to impersonate them. Businesses need
to protect this key information not only for their customers, but for
their employees as well. The Better Business Bureau suggests that businesses
take the following proactive steps to avoid identity theft:
- Develop a process to screen
employees who have access to personal information, even if they are
- Screen the cleaning service
and temporary firms you use.
- Keep all personal information
in locked files, and establish secure procedures for data services.
- Limit use of personal identifiers.
Use an alternative number and means of identification instead of social
- Encrypt all personal and
confidential information on computers. Make sure your systems administrator
checks on a regular basis that your system is hacker-proof.
- Consider placing photos
on your business cards, employee identification cards and badges. This
avoids the problem of an imposter "borrowing" business cards
and using them to pose as the victim.
- Adopt secure methods for
disposing of personal information, such as using shredders.
- Instruct staff on security
procedures when sending personal information by fax, including using
a confidential cover and double-checking the fax number.
- Do not leave personal or
confidential information on voice mail, pagers, cellular phones or email.
These are not reliable ways to transmit sensitive messages.
- Use designated and secure
printers and copiers for personal information. Keep shredders nearby.
- Adopt a written protection
policy and display it in your company literature and web site.
- Rethink what type of information
you really need from customers and employees versus the information
you currently gather. In this case, less is better. Limit data collection
to information necessary to the purpose, not information you might use
later. For more information on identity theft visit www.NewYork.BBB.org/identitytheft/index.htm