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In the course of the day you may write a check at the drugstore, charge tickets to a concert, rent a car, call home on your cell phone, or apply for a credit card. Chances are you don't give these routine transactions a second thought. But others may.

Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in America, affecting half a million new victims each year. Identity Theft or Identity Fraud is the taking of a victim's identity to obtain credit, credit cards from banks and retailers, steal money from a victim's existing accounts, apply for loans, establish accounts with utility companies, rent an apartment, file bankruptcy, or obtain a job using the victim's name. 

The imposter obtains your social security number, your date of birth, and other identifying information such as your address and phone number. With this information and a fake driver's license, they can apply in person for instant credit or through the mail posing as you. They often claim they have moved and provide their own address. Once the first account is established, they can continue to add to their credibility.

They get the information from your doctor, lawyer, school, health insurance carrier, and many other sources. "Dumpster Divers" pick up information you may have thrown away, such as utility bills, credit card slip, and other such documents.


* Do not give out personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or know whom you're dealing with. Identity thieves will pose as bank representatives, Internet service providers, and even government officials to get you to reveal identifying information.

* Shred all documents, including pre- approved credit applications received in your name, insurance forms, bank checks and statements you are discarding, and other financial information.

* Do not use your mother's maiden name, your date of birth, the last four digits of your social security number, or any similar series of numbers as a password for anything.

* Minimize the identification information and the numbers of cards you carry. Take what you'll actually need. Don't carry your social security card, birth certificates, or passport, unless necessary. Eliminate the use of your social security number on your drivers license.

* Do not put your social security number on your checks or your credit receipts. If a business requests your social security number, give them an alternate number and explain why. If a government agency request your social security number, there must be a privacy notice accompanying the request.
You may want to eliminate your home address on your personal checks, as I have never been questioned for this information. If your are cashing a check in most cases the clerk will ask to see an I.D. that has your home address information.
Use as few checks as possible and in certain cases use a Cashiers Check or Money Order, when dealing with a business you don't feel 100% about.

* Do not put your telephone number on checks.

* Be careful using ATMs and phone cards. Someone may look over your shoulder and obtain your PIN number(s), thereby gaining access to your accounts.

* Make a list of all of your credit card account numbers and bank account numbers with customer service phone numbers and keep it in a safe place.

* Do not put your credit card number on the Internet unless it is encrypted on a secured site. 

* Cancel any/all credit cards that you have not used in the past six months. Open credit is a prime target.

* Write to Direct Marketing Association, Mail Preference Service, PO BOX 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735 to get your name off direct mail lists.

For more info. concerning Internet Safety visit related SafetyCops Article, as well as Web Sites of your credit card company and SafetyCops At-A-Glance Page for Law Enforcement related links.

Crime Prevention Tips from

National Crime Prevention Council
1000 Connecticut Avenue, NW
13th Floor
Washington, DC 20036

SafetyCops Say If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is !

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