Below is a list of some steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim:
DO NOT carry your social security card with you. If your social security number is stolen the identity thief has everything needed to completely compromise your identity.
DO NOT send identifying information via email at all or to any site you do not know and trust.
DO NOT put out-going mail in your mailbox. Deposit all outgoing mail in an approved United States Postal Service mailbox.
DO NOT give out personal/financial information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you initiated the contact. No legitimate business will initiate contact with you and ask for your password, account and/or personal information.
DO NOT respond to unsolicited mail, spam or pop-ups. If you receive an email that appears to be from your bank, contact your bank directly, do not respond or click on a link in an email.
DO NOT leave checks in an unlocked mailbox. Drop mail off directly at the post office.
DO NOT use a ball point pen to sign checks; the ink can be erased. Instead use a gel pen.
DO NOT provide your social security number unless absolutely necessary. If a business or organization asks for it, be sure to ask them why they need it, what they will do with it and how they will protect it.
DO NOT allow your child's social security number to be used to sign up for school/sports activities.
DO NOT leave your wallet, purse, checkbook in your vehicle, even for a short time. It WILL be stolen. Check your glove box and remove all documents that contain your personal and/or financial information.
DO NOT leave your purse unattended in shopping carts even for a few seconds.
DO NOT use obvious passwords like date of birth, mother's maiden name or the last four digits of your social security number.
DO use a combination of numbers, upper and lower case letters, and special characters to create passwords.
DO routinely monitor your accounts and credit reports for unauthorized activity.
DO avoid telemarketing, contest/sweepstake entries, etc. If you did not enter a sweepstake contest, you did not win! Do not respond to emails telling you that you have won a contest.
DO use computer safeguards such as pop-up blockers, anti-spyware, anti-virus programs, etc.
DO use caution when making Internet or E-bay purchases.
DO carry only credit and debit cards that are essential.
DO ensure that checks have security features and DO NOT print your your social security or driver's license numbers on your checks.
DO get a locking mailbox or a P.O. Box. Mail theft is the source of a large percentage of identity theft, particularly in Pierce County.
DO stop your mail if you will be out of the area.
DO shred all documents with a cross-cut shredder.
DO keep passports and other important personal/financial information in a safe.
DO make copies of the front and back of all credit/debit cards and put them in a secure place (not purse or wallet). If your cards are stolen you will know the contact names and numbers.
DO keep your computer operating system updated and download all security patches as they come out.
DO contact your credit card companies and ask them not to send 'convenience checks' unless you specifically request them.
DO have up-to-date anti-virus and firewall software installed on your computer if you surf the Internet. You should also install an anti-spyware program.
DO order your credit report annually.
DO be careful about 'phishing' scams on the Internet. 'Phishing' is a high-tech scam that uses e-mail or pop-up messages to deceive you into disclosing your password, account information or other personal/financial information. To see examples of 'phishing' and to test your knowledge go online at http://survey.mailfrontier.com
Before you dispose of a computer, make sure you use a 'wipe' utility to overwrite the entire hard drive. It's not enough to just delete files because they can easily be retrieved.
If your insurance company, bank, or other organization uses your social security number as an account or ID number, call them and insist that they change it.
Reduce the number of pre-approved credit card offers by contacting (888)-5OPTOUT ((888)-567-8688.) (They will request your social security number).