Jackson Township
Cambria County, Pennsylvania

Preventing Identity Theft

Computer consultant Ray Brannon has compiled a list of 10 Identify Commandments to help residents protect themselves from identity theft:

 1.  Annually obtain copies of your credit report from the three national credit bureaus:  Trans Union Credit Services (1-800-888-4213), Equifax Credit Services (1-800-685-1111) and Experian Credit Services (1-888-397-3742).

 2.  Check out your credit card statements each month to make sure all items were billed by you.

 3.  Shred ATM or credit card receipts as well as unsolicited credit card offers before discarding.  "Dumpster divers" have been known to sort through rubbish to obtain account numbers and other information from such documents.

 4.  Never mail bills by placing them in the mailbox with the red flag up - a signal for opportunistic identity thieves.  Mail bills at the post office or in a postal service drop box.

 5.  Don't carry your social security card with you.

 6.  Never give out personal or credit card information over the phone unless you initiated the call.

 7.  If your credit card bills and other monthly documents such as bank statements are more than a couple of weeks late, immediately contact the post office to make sure your mail has not been forwarded by someone to another address.  Also contact your bank and companies from which you're expecting bills.

 8.  Protect your personal identification number (PIN) for your ATM or debit card by committing it to memory rather than writing it down in a handbag or wallet.  If others are standing behind you at an ATM machine, cover your hand when you punch in your PIN.

 9.  Don't let your children make unsupervised credit-card purchases on the Internet.  Kids are the number one victim of pop-up ads.

10.  Don't save financial information or social security numbers to your computer.

Brannon offers the following additional tips for enhancing personal cyber security.

Download a free copy of Zone Alarm ( www.zonelabs.com ) to guard your computer against hackers and to help keep advertisers from tracking and targeting you.

Download a free version of SpyBot ( www.spybot.com ) to detect and remove Spyware from your computer.  Spyware tracks your online behavior without your consent.  Consequences of spyware can include identity theft, computer corruption, slower Internet access and more pop-up ads.

To opt out of pre-screened credit card offers call 1-888-5-OPTOUT.

To opt out of direct mail log on to www.the-dma.org/consumers/offmailinglist.html

To opt out of email: www.dmaconsumers.org/offemaillist.html

Other resources for identity theft issues include: National Fraud Information Center (1-800-876-7060 or www.fraud.org); Federal Trade Commission's Identity theft hotline is (1-877-IDTHEFT).   

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