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Smart Money Tips

Consumer alerts - Protect yourself against Identity Theft

You can be a victim of Identity Fraud if a thief gets hold of personal information such as your Social Security or credit card numbers. Using this information, a thief can open accounts in your name, run up bills and ruin your credit. Correcting the problem could take years. Protect yourself with a few common sense precautions.

  • Never give out your Social Security number to unauthorized persons
    Very few private businesses need your Social Security number for identification.
  • Don't give out credit card numbers over the phone if you didn't initiate the call
    Thieves often pretend to represent legitimate companies to get you to reveal personal information.
  • Protect your PIN number
    Never write your PIN number on your ATM or Debit card. If you lose your card, you will have given whoever finds it full access to your account.
  • Check your credit report annually
    For a nominal fee, you can obtain a copy of your credit report at any time from any of the big three credit bureaus. Check it to make sure that it is accurate, and that there are no accounts listed which you did not open.

Prevent Credit Card Fraud

Thanks to the Internet, you can now shop for virtually anything from the comfort of your home, rather than driving all over town. However, Internet shopping has also made it easier for thieves to commit fraud using stolen credit card numbers. Remember, thieves don't need the actual plastic card to use it fraudulently. All they need is the 16-digit number. Protect your card from prying eyes as well as thieving hands.

Here are some tips to reduce your chances of being victimized.

  • Sign your cards as soon as you receive them to prevent misuse if a card is lost or stolen.
  • Carry only the cards you intend to use. Never write your PIN number on your card!
  • Get your card back as soon as possible after a transaction; a dishonest clerk could make an impression on another receipt and use it to make purchases.
  • Always check the total on your receipt before signing, and draw a line through any blank spaces.
  • Verify all transaction amounts on your monthly statement, making certain the amounts match your receipts. If there are any transactions which you did not authorize, notify the credit card issuer immediately.
  • Never give out your credit card numbers over the phone unless you initiate the call.
  • When ordering anything online, make sure the web page is secure, and that you know and trust the vendor.
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