Tips to prevent identity theft

Not only can identity loss be a hassle, it can create heartache. In order to make sure someone does not use personal information to gain access to accounts, and to make purchases that could damage a person's finances the federal government recommends the following steps to guard oneself.

• Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write it on your checks. Only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary.
• Protect your PIN. Never write a PIN on a credit/debit card or on a slip of paper kept in your wallet.
• Watch out for "shoulder surfers". Use your free hand to shield the keypad when using pay phones and ATMs.
• Collect mail promptly. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold when you are away from home for more than a day or two.
• Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
• Keep your receipts. Ask for carbons and incorrect charge slips as well. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
• Tear up or shred unwanted receipts, credit offers, account statements, expired cards, etc., to prevent dumpster divers getting your personal information.
• Store personal information in a safe place at home and at work. Don't leave it lying around.
• Don't respond to unsolicited requests for personal information in the mail, over the phone or online.
• Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
• Check your credit report once a year. Check it more frequently if you suspect someone has gotten access to your account information.

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Also, visit the Federal Trade Commission website for more tips and information in dealing with identity theft at

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