The following guidelines can help you avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Don't carry a Social Security card or documents containing your Social Security number in your wallet or purse. Give out your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary.
- Don't carry any credit or debit cards that you don't absolutely need. If you have credit cards that you are not using, cancel them in writing to the issuing financial institution. Then cut the cards into small strips before disposing. Never write your PIN on anything you carry with you.
- Check your credit card bills and financial statements each month and look for any activity you don't recognize. The quicker you spot a problem, the more apt you are to limit the damage.
- Make front and back copies of your credit cards and keep them somewhere secure. It's important to have this information on hand if you need to report your card lost or stolen.
- Be careful when disposing of "pre-approved credit" offers that you receive in the mail. If possible, shred them.
- Take all outgoing mail to the post office or deposit it in a postal service box in your neighborhood. Be sure to pick up your incoming mail soon after delivery.
- Don't give out personal information in person, over the phone, by mail or on the Internet unless you made the initial contact or are certain you know the people to whom you are giving your information.
- Make sure that you secure your important documents with personal information in a lock box or safe. When regular bills don't show up in the mail, follow up with the company. When you reorder personal checks, arrange to pick them up rather than have them sent to your home.
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