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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft refers to fraud that involves using another’s identity to obtain money, goods or services. With so much financial activity occurring electronically, identity theft has become a booming business. The consequences to the victim can be extensive and take years to clear. The financial loss may be accompanied with a ruined credit rating, creditors calling constantly, and the possibility of having your name linked with illegal activities. There are some simple ways to protect yourself and reduce the risk of your becoming a target.

Shred. We’ve heard this before but it is essential. Careless disposal of documents which have identifying information is a fertile source for identity thieves. The information doesn’t have to be complete or all in one document. By sifting through a variety of trashed mail, a thief could build a fairly complete profile. A boon to the identity thief is the pre-approved credit card offers. Shred them on disposal or better yet opt out of receiving them. (1-888-5-OPTOUT).

Use on-line access to your bank and credit card accounts to check activity between statement cycles. A lot can happen in a month. If you check weekly, you’ll find any problems that much sooner. Additionally, some banks allow you to set up alerts on your accounts so you can receive an e-mail or text message when activity on an account exceeds levels you set.

If an expected bill doesn’t show up in the mail, don’t sigh with relief. Better to wonder whether your mail has been stolen. If you are comfortable with e-mail, arrange for bank and credit card statements to be sent to you via e-mail.

Identity thieves use equipment called skimmers to capture debit card numbers and pins. The skimmer is attached to an ATM card slot or to any card swipe unit. If the card swipe looks strange, don’t swipe your card.

Be careful responding to e-mails or phone calls asking you to confirm identity information. If the requester is someone with whom you normally do business, call that business using a number you have from a prior statement.

Be aware of people around you when using your debit card. Cell phones have cameras. These cameras can be used to capture your account and PIN.

Identity thieves favor debit cards over credit cards. Stealing debit card information gives the thief direct access to your bank account. If you can control your credit card use, use credit cards instead.

Taking precautions will go a long way toward preventing identity theft.

IRS Circular 230 Disclosure

Pursuant to U.S. Treasury Department Regulations, we are now required to advise you that any federal tax advice contained in this communication, including attachments and enclosures, is not intended by the Sender or Sandra G Johnson, CPA, P.C. to constitute a covered opinion pursuant to regulation section 10.35 or to be used for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any tax-related matters addressed herein.


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