Preventing identity theft

Friday, August 22, 2014

The growing number of reported "identity thefts" 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.

And one of the latest threats include restaurant/bar servers secretly taking a photo of your credit card with their cell phone on the way to or from the cash register.

Here are some tips to help keep your information private:

*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.

*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.