Video – 6 tips to protect yourself from identity theft
Daniel Ray: I’m Dan Ray, Editor-in-Chief of CreditCards.com, and with me is Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, and I want to talk about a topic that’s on the tips of a lot of tongues because it affects so many people, and that’s identity theft. Gail, what can you tell us about what some of the issues are with identity theft?
Gail Cunningham: You know identity theft seems to be the crime that just won’t go away, and as consumers become more savvy and we arm ourselves with the most recent tips, it seems as though the crooks stay one step in front of us, and I just hate that for people, because identity theft damages more than your money, more than the financial side, it destroys your good name, and it takes hours to restore that. Frankly, you won’t be out much money, matter of fact, the limit is capped at fifty dollars, and most creditors will waive even that charge that they are out, if you notify them promptly. And by the way, that leads me into some tips.
One is to review your statement frequently, certainly open your bill when it arrives. You’d be surprised how many people I speak to that just put their bills in a pile and maybe they tend to them once a week. But, that may be enough to guard against identity theft, but I like to open that bill the minute it arrives and go over it item-by-item and make sure that I have made all the purchases that are listed there.
I also want you to check your wallet. Most people have heard not to carry your social security card in your wallet, but did you think about this: Look at your insurance cards and other cards that you carry with you, because many of them use your social security number as your identifying number. So be sure that that’s not happening to you. Until recently a lot of states used your social security number as your driver’s license number, so make sure that you’re not letting anyone see your social security number, as that is the gateway to your identity.
Also, be sure that you have copied all of your credit cards, front and back, and keep that in a secure place, maybe a safe deposit box, and that way if something does happen to you, you can notify all of your creditors easily because you’ll have the name, the account number, and the customer service number handy to you.
Shred all your information, you hear that all the time. Personal shredders are relatively cheap, get one that has the criss-cross function, because believe it or not, the crooks have been known to steal bags of shredded materials, and tape the strip shreds back together to see what information they contain.
Another interesting tip: when you order your new checks, have them shipped to the bank, don’t let them be shipped to your home mailbox, because thieves consider that a bonanza when they see a box of checks sitting in a mailbox. They will steal that box and hand out each packet of checks to a number of different people. Now, why do that? That’s because when each of these different people goes to a store and writes a check in your name, and the security camera catches that on film, well, all of those ten people look very different, and it makes it very hard to catch them because the person going by the same name, yours, will look very different. Also, put as little identifying information as you can get away with on your checks. The other day I was in the store and the topic of ID theft came up, and someone said, “Well, I just thought that I was being helpful, because when you write a check, everyone behind you in line gets kinda frustrated because its taking a long time, so I put my name and my address and my social security number and my drivers license number, all on my check.” Well I told him he might as well hand his checkbook to the thief, he’s making it so easy for them to steal his identity.
And speaking of such, that magnetic strip on your credit card contains everything that the crook needs to know about you. I like to not use my credit card unless I can keep it in my sight the whole time, because the credit card scanners, they can be bought online, they’re pretty cheap, and anybody can take your card to the back to presumably make a legitimate transaction. They can scan your personal information and even sell it to an organized crime ring, certainly something you want to protect against.
DR: The retailers are vigilant; consumers need to be vigilant as well about ID theft, because the crooks are always trying to get one step ahead. We’ve been talking about identity theft. I’m with Gail Cunningham, from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. I’m Dan Ray.
Identity theft is a huge problem these days. Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, offers helpful, practical tips to keep yourself safe.