1. Do not give your Social Security number, mother's maiden name or account numbers to strangers who contact you, especially by phone, Internet or mail. Identity thieves sometimes pose as business, bank or government representatives to get you to reveal personal information.
2. Passwords. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's name, your birthdate, the last four digits of your Social Security Number, your phone number or an easy series of numbers such as 1234 as passwords.
3. Do not carry PIN numbers, birth certificates, Social Security cards or passports unless absolutely necessary.
4. Review your credit card and other credit statements each month and make sure you know exactly what you're being billed for.
5. Guard your mail from theft. Don't leave outgoing mail in an unsecured mailbox. Use a locking mailbox.
6. Use the ID Blocker Stamp or shred documents containing personal information before throwing them away. This includes bills, charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, bank checks and statements, expired charge cards and credit offers you get in the mail.
7. Contact your card issuer to find out if any of your cardholder information can be given to partners or affiliates (third parties) of the card issuer. If so, ask for the address to write to cancel this authorization. You might want to use the phrase: "no third party solicitations."
8. Contact the three major credit bureaus and ask to "Opt Out" of the pre-approved credit lists they sell to companies. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or make the request online at www.optoutprescreen.com. Note that you will be asked for your Social Security number and birth date; the credit bureaus already have this information and the Web site is encrypted. However, if you choose not to provide your Social Security and birth date, the bureaus will attempt to process your request without this information. When making a request by phone you can say "No" when asked for your Social Security number or birth date. You will need to say "No" twice before the automated system accepts your request. Requests made online or by phone are valid for five years. You can also permanently remove your name from these lists by mailing a request using the form available at www.optoutprescreen.com.
9. Remove your name from marketer's unsolicited mailing and calling lists. Make a request online athttps://www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailing or write to Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 282, Carmel, NY 10512. You'll pay $1.
10. Be cautious about "trial memberships." Refuse the offer if you will be billed and later have to cancel if you don't like the product.
11. Check your credit report to make sure it is accurate. A recent amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months, from www.annualcreditreport.com by calling 877-322-8228, or by completing the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mailing it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.