Avoiding Identity Theft
By Danny Oberst
We are confronted with the risk of identity theft every day. From shopping at the local grocery store, buying something online or simply browsing the internet, cyber hackers are trying to steal your financial information. The time, effort and money necessary to resolve this type of theft can be overwhelming.
Statistics show that most of us will have to deal with the consequences of identity theft at least once and probably multiple times. The cost for our modern day conveniences can be very high, if we are not careful. Below are suggestions to help you minimize these risks.
How can I protect my identity?
- Keep your financial records, Social Security and Medicare cards in a safe place.
- Shred papers that have your personal or medical information.
- Take mail out of mailbox as soon as you can and have your mail picked-up when out of town.
As you do business:
- Only give your Social Security number if you must. Ask if you can use another forms of ID.
- Do not give your personal information to anyone who calls or emails you.
On the computer:
- Use passwords that are not easy to guess. Use numbers and symbols whenever possible.
- Do not respond to emails or other messages that ask for your personal information.
- Do not put personal information on a computer in a public place, like Starbucks or the library.
How will I know if someone steals my identity?
Read your bills and account statements. Watch for the following:
- Things you did not buy.
- Withdrawals you did not make.
- A change of your address that you did not expect.
- Bills that stop coming.
- Look at medical statements for charges you do not recognize.
Periodically review a copy of your credit report. You can get one free credit report every year from each credit reporting company (as required by law). To order: Call the Annual Credit Report hotline at 877-322-8228.
- Answer questions from the recorded system. You will have to give your address, Social Security number and birth date.
- Choose to only show the last four digits of your Social Security number (it is safer than showing the whole number).
- Choose which credit reporting company you want a report from (you can receive one free report from each company every year).
Report identity theft to the special Financial Investigations Unit of the Dallas Police Department by completing an “Identity Theft” form online or call 214-671-3543 during regular business hours.