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Identity Theft - 10 Things You Need To Know

Everyone is susceptible to identity theft.  The young or old, rich or poor - be careful.  Here are 10 important tips and facts about identity theft so you can avoid becoming a victim. 

1.  Thieves do not need your credit card to steal your identity. Thieves need only one piece of information about you like your social security or birthdate.  Then they can get the rest.  Never give out your social security number on the phone or internet unless you have an existing relationship with that person or business.

2.   A thief can easily obtain personal information about you online.   Nonfinancial information is easily accessible on social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin.  Be careful and think twice before publishing your address and/or birthdate.

3.  Watch your monthly bills and make sure you receive your credit card statements and ordered checks.  Identity thefts can intercept credit card bills to change the billing address.  They can rack up a lot of charges on your credit card before you realize it is stolen.  Also, they can write checks off your account by obtaining blank checks ordered in the mail.   

4. Review your bank and credit card statements carefully for small charges.  Thieves often test out the account by charging a small amount, even a few pennies before purchasing a block of credit cards.  Fraud alerts are generally not activated by purchases under a certain dollar amount. 

5.  Review your credit report regularly.  This is a good idea.  You are entitled to ONE FREE COPY of each of your three credit reports every twelve (12) months by accessing this website or by calling 1-877-322-8228.

6.  If an ATM does not look right, do not use it.  If the card feels differently after you swipe it or the machine looks unusual, avoid the machine or immediately cancel the transaction.  There could be a credit card skimmer attached to the ATM.  Skimmers are electronic devices placed in the card slot by thieves.  The skimmers capture your credit card information when you swipe it.

7.   Identity thieves can be sneaky, so you need to be sneaky, too.  For example, sign your name on the back of your credit card with a Sharpie so it can't be erased.  One person kept the "please activate" sticker on their card.  On more than one occasion, that kept thieves from taking her credit card.

8.  Pay attention when you pay with a credit card.  Make sure the clerk is not taking too much time or the customer behind you isn't looking over your shoulder.  If the purchase seems suspicious in any way, check your statements for unusual activity.

9.  Go paperless and become friendly with the shredder.  If possible, get your monthly financial statements and bills sent to you electronically.  Also, make sure to shred all documents that contain personal and financial information.  Invest in a shredder and use it frequently. 

10.  Consider investing in identity theft insurance.  This can be helpful, but make sure you read the fine print and understand the terms.   You can also contact our firm for a free copy of our Identity Theft Kit

Most importantly, you have questions about your identity that remains unanswered.  Or maybe your credit report has errors and you don't know where to turn.  SmithMarco, P.C., has over 30 years of combined experience practicing law protecting the rights of consumers around the country.  Call now for a free, confidential case review.  We offer friendly, personal service from an attorney. To read the complete article, click here.

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