Identity theft again tops the Federal Trade Commission's list of consumer
complaints. Frank W. Abagnale, a reformed thief, is now a respected authority
on identity theft and other forms of fraud. His book, Catch Me If You Can," which
details his criminal escapades, was made into a feature film by Steven Spielberg
and stars Leonardo Di Caprio as Abagnale. Frank Abagnale wrote this commentary
Identity thieves rob more than 500,000 Americans every year. Credit can be damaged,
and fixing it can cost you hundreds of dollars and take hundreds of hours of
your time. These steps will help you reduce your risk of identity theft
Regain Your Credit.com - 14 Identity Theft Safeguards
1. Guard your Social Security number. It is the key to your credit report and
banking accounts and is the prime target of criminals.
2. Monitor your credit report. It contains your SSN, present and prior employers,
a listing of all account numbers, including those that have been closed, and
your overall credit score. After applying for a loan, credit card, rental or
anything else that requires a credit report, request that your SSN on the application
be truncated or completely obliterated and your original credit report be shredded
before your eyes or returned to you once a decision has been made. A lender or
rental manager needs to retain only your name and credit score to justify a decision.
3. Shred all old bank and credit statements and "junk mail" credit
card offers before trashing them. Use a crosscut shredder. Crosscut shredders
cost more than regular shredders but are superior.
4. Remove your name from the marketing lists of the three credit reporting bureaus
to reduce the number of pre approved credit offers you receive.
5. Add your name to the name-deletion lists of the Direct Marketing Association's
Mail Preference Service and Telephone Preference Service used by banks and other
6. Do not carry extra credit cards or other important identity documents except
7. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Copy both sides
of your license and credit cards so you have all the account numbers, expiration
dates and phone numbers if your wallet or purse is stolen.
8. Do not mail bill payments and checks from home. They can be stolen from your
mailbox and washed clean in chemicals. Take them to the post office.
9. Do not print your Social Security number on your checks.
10. Order your Social Security Earnings and Benefits statement once a year to
check for fraud.
11. Examine the charges on your credit card statements before paying them.
12. Cancel unused credit card accounts.
13. Never give your credit card number or personal information over the phone
unless you have initiated the call and trust that business.
14. Subscribe to a credit report monitoring service that will notify you whenever
someone applies for credit in your name.
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