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Identity Theft - Head Matters


5. Preventing Fraud and Scams

a. In your home

When you’re at home, keep personal information safe, especially if you have roommates or are having any work done in your home.  Don’t keep Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) near your checkbook, ATM card or debit card and don’t keep passwords written down in an easy to access location or in your wallet.

Shred – shred any papers with confidential information before you throw them out—even junk mail.  Anything with an account number can be used in identity theft.  This includes prescreened credit card offers, receipts, canceled checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, doctors’ bills, paycheck stubs, and insurance documents.  Also, shred or keep in a locked place copies of passports, licenses, office identification must also be shred.

Wallet – since many identity thefts are traced to having a purse or wallet stolen, carry as few cards with identification and personal information as possible.  Don’t carry your Social Security Number or card and bring as few credit cards as you can.  Think about putting different cards in different parts of your purse or wallet.

Confidential information – You should be wary of any mail, telephone, or internet request for information – it could be “pretexting.” Unless you initiated the contact with a business, don’t give out any confidential information – such as your credit card number, Social Security Number, PIN, birth date, or even your mother’s maiden name.  Don’t use  a “public “ computer that can be used by others when doing business that involves confidential information as the next user may be able to get your information. 

Banking and credit statements – Check your banking and credit statements soon after you receive them and make sure there is no unexplained activity.  If you have on-line banking, be sure the deductions and additions to your bank accounts are accurate.  Many people check every day!  Keep track of when in the month each of your bills usually arrives.  If a bill does not arrive on time, call the company to make sure no changes have been made to your account.  Often, identity thieves will change the address of a bill so that it will take you longer to figure out the scam.  If you’re careful, you may notice the theft earlier.  
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