Preventing ID theft takes diligence
September 1, 2017
With Better Business Bureau’s free annual event, the Secure Your ID shred day, coming up, it’s a good time to remind people about steps they can take to prevent identity theft.
The first line of defense in protecting your identity is to shred all documents with personal information. That includes credit card, bank, utility and other statements, old IRS and tax information, medical statements and credit card offers. Many instances of identity theft still occur by physical methods – dumpster diving and stealing mail out of unsecured mailboxes.
Only carry in your wallet what is absolutely necessary: one credit card, your license and maybe your insurance card. Never carry your Social Security or Medicare/Medicaid cards. Make copies once a year of everything in your wallet – front and back - as well. In case your purse or wallet are lost or stolen, you have all the phone numbers on the backs of the cards and you know what was in your wallet.
Check all medical statements that come to you. Medical ID theft has affected millions of victims in the U.S. in the past few years. Monitor your credit card, bank and phone bills monthly to make sure there are no unauthorized charges. If there are, dispute them immediately.
Check your credit report at least once a year at annualcreditreport.com. Go through the report to make sure all entries are legitimate. If not, contact the credit agency to resolve the issue.
Never give out personal information, bank account or credit card information to anyone who calls your home or cell phone unsolicited. If you aren’t sure if the phone call is legitimate, hang up and call the number you have, not the one the caller gave you. In most cases, it is a fraudulent call. Just hang up the phone. It’s best to not have any conversations with these scammers.
If you are a computer user, never click on any links in emails and use caution when clicking social media ads. Identity thieves send phishing emails that look like they are coming from your bank, for example, to get you to click on a link. The scammers then gain access to your computer and obtain personal information or put malware on your computer to shut it down and try to ransom your access by demanding payment. Be sure you have anti-virus software on your computer and that you use strong passwords for all sites. And don’t reuse passwords on multiple sites. Also, be sure to have an external back-up so you don’t lose your information.
If you are in the Anchorage area, please bring your boxes of documents to be shred for free: Secure Your ID Day and Financial Fitness Fair, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Mall at Sears (600 E. Northern Lights Blvd).
Shred trucks will be on the Benson Boulevard side by the former Carr’s store.
The Financial Fitness Fair will be inside the mall. There will be booths, seminars and free coffee and cookies.
Sponsors for BBB’s shred day include: Shred Alaska, The Wilson Agency, KFQD, United Way and The Mall at Sears.
Michelle Tabler is the Alaska Regional Manager for Better Business Bureau Northwest.