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Identity Thieves are Sneakier Than You Think

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We’ve all heard the warnings: never give out your personal information over the phone or Internet unless you want someone to steal your identity. Even the most official-looking e-mails branded with corporate logos can be a front for phishers – crooks who want to make off with your credit cardinformation and more. But sometimes you have to take extra steps to protect your identity. Here are some tips to keep you safe.

Leave Your Credit Cards at Home

When you don’t need your credit cards, leave them at home in a safe place along with your Social Security card and other important documents. This will not only curb the temptation to make impulse purchases, it will also keep your finances secure in the event that your wallet or purse is lost or stolen.

Keep Personal Details Private

Are you on social networks like MySpace and Facebook? If you’ve published such personal details as your full name and date of birth, thieves can use that information to learn more about you. Savvy thieves can take a few personal details and use them to track down your Social Security number and even your financial accounts. Play it safe and keep your details to yourself.

Watch for Missing Mail

Have you been waiting for bills or credit card statements that never arrive? Contact your creditor to ask about the delay. Once an identity thief highjacks your account, they can easily change the billing address, leaving you in the dark when it comes to purchases made with your credit card.

Manage Your Paper Trail

Whenever possible, get your bills and statements online and do away with paper bills altogether. That way, nobody can swipe your discarded mail and make off with your personal information. If you just can’t say goodbye to paper, be sure to shred your mail thoroughly before throwing it away.

Trust Your Instincts

If something seems fishy, go with your gut. For example, some thieves attach devices to the card slots of ATM machines and gas pumps. These devices capture the details of every card inserted into them. If there’s something unusual about a machine, don’t use it. Likewise, if your cashier is taking too long with your credit card, they could be taking a picture of it with their camera phone or swiping it through a ‘skimmer’ device to steal your credit card number. You don’t have to have a confrontation, but do be sure to keep a close eye on your credit card statements if you have suspicions.

When it comes to identity theft, you are your best line of defense. By following these simple suggestions, you can minimize your chance of being victimized.

 

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