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There is no perfect antidote to minimize the risk of identity theft, but you can practice smart behaviors in your daily life to significantly minimize the odds of falling prey to this devastating crime. Here are a few practical tips:
Minimize the amount of personal financial information you carry. Do not carry your Social Security card with you unless you need it. This includes government issued cards with that number on them. Only provide your Social Security number (SSN) when absolutely necessary. Memorize passwords and PIN numbers. Do not carry them. Keep financial information in a secure place in your home or bank safe deposit box.
Shred documents before throwing them away. Purchase a cross-cut shredder to better protect your information.
Do not give sensitive information to unsolicited callers. Legitimate businesses will not make unsolicited calls asking for your SSN or bank account numbers. Caller ID information can be spoofed, so do not rely on the name and number on your box. If in doubt, hang up and dial your vendors directly. Many methods of fraud are tied to bogus callers seeking information collection opportunities.
Shield your hand when entering your PIN at a bank ATM, store checkouts, or when making long distance calls with a calling card. This prevents security cameras, cell phone cameras or people near you from acquiring your PIN. Shred ATM slips.
Pick up new checks or credit cards at your bank rather than having them delivered to your home. Do not print your driver's license number or SSN on your checks.
If your bank or credit card statement does not arrive on time, call to make sure it was sent to the proper address. Also, contact the Post Office to see if a change of address has been filed in your name. An identity thief may steal or divert your statements to hide the theft and use these as proof of their “new” identity.
When traveling, you are even more vulnerable to identity thieves. Keep all personal belongings locked in hotel safes/safe deposit boxes or with you. This includes prescription bottles that have personal information on them. Avoid posting your travel plans in advance on social networking sites as this could inadvertently lead identity thieves or burglars to your personal information or belongings while you’re away.