Preventing identity theft

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The growing number of reported "identity thefts" running rampant worldwide can cost you considerably unless you take the measures to help prevent it.

Identity theft is when someone obtains important personal information such as your Social Security number, or your bank account or credit card numbers to commit theft or fraud.

An imposter might use your personal information to open fraudulent credit card accounts, secure deposits on cars or housing, create insurance benefits, or rob retirement earnings. It can be very difficult and time-consuming to untangle the problems.

Identity thieves might obtain crucial information by stealing from your mailbox, sorting through trash for discarded receipts or statements, or tricking you into disclosing your key personal information.

*Never give your credit card number or other personal information over the phone, unless you initiate the call and know you can trust the business.

*Shred or tear up papers with your personal information, such as bill statements and mail solicitations for credit cards. Always take your ATM and credit card receipts.

*Remove extra information from your checks, such as Social Security numbers (SSN), date of birth, address, middle name, etc. Checks can be lost or stolen, or their information copied.

*Memorize your SSN and PIN numbers and passwords. Don't carry extra credit cards, Social Security card, birth certificate or passport unless essential.

*Choose an assigned driver's license number from the DOT. Don't use your SSN.

*Don't reveal financial or unnecessary personal information on sweepstakes entries, prize offers, warranty cards, subscriptions, city directories, etc. Information is often sold and circulated, increasing your junk mail and the risk of identity theft.

*Ask the national credit card companies to NOT give your name and address to solicitors. To remove your name from credit card agencies, call 888-567-8688 (888-5-OPT-OUT). You can request permanent removal or for a two-year period.

*Examine your account statements every month to prevent unauthorized charges.

If you have experienced identity theft or have a complaint, contact the Consumer Protection Division, Des Moines, Iowa 50319, or call 515-281-5926.