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10 Steps To Reduce Your Risk of Identity Theft

Real Estate agents go to continuing education classes, and courses and discussions. This morning Dana Coyle, a Credit Consultant and CEO of Complete Credit Services, came and spoke at Realty Executives office in Green Valley.  We all think that we know how Credit companies formulate our scores. But we actually don’t. Nobody does. Those companies keep that data formula as closely guarded as Coca-Cola, or Colonel Sanders. And the formulas change all the time and they’re all different. That’s why your credit goes up and down… that and a host of other credit issues can be found on the Complete Credit Services website. Lot’s of helpful, useful information there. One of the issues that we can do something about is following these 10 steps to reduce Your Risk of Identity Theft. Take this seriously. Lots of identity thieves out there.  You need to be proactive in REDUCING your risk of Identity Theft. Follow these 10 steps:

1. Guard your Social Security number (SSN). It is the key to your credit report and banking accounts and is the prime target of criminals. Do not print your SSN on your checks or your driver license.   Do not give it out in public or over a cell phone.  When asked for it, request to use a different form of security or verification using other personal information.  Remember that not every company that asks for your SSN actually needs it.  The pizza place or library may still give you the discount or membership card with other information you provide.

2. Do NOT carry your Social Security card or ALL of your credit cards in your wallet or purse.  Leave the SSN card at home locked in a safe place.  If you must have a credit card with you, only carry one.  You probably will not need to use every single one of your credit cards while you are out for the day.

3. Do NOT loan out your credit cards, Social Security card or Driver License.  No matter how close the friend or relative is, it is YOUR personal information that is at risk.  And it will be YOUR responsibility and your time spent in the event of lost information that results in increased risk of identity theft.

4. Monitor and safeguard the information on your credit report.  It contains your SSN, present and prior employers, and a listing of all account numbers – including those that have been closed. After applying for a loan, credit card, rental or anything else requiring a credit report, request that your SSN on the application be truncated or completely obliterated and your original credit report shredded before your eyes or returned to you once a decision has been made. A lender or rental manager needs only to keep your name and credit score to justify their decision.

5. Shred bank statements, credit statements and “junk mail” credit card offers before throwing them away. Rather than tearing them by hand, use a crosscut shredder.   This is especially important for any unsolicited credit card offers you receive and the so-called “convenience” checks that your  credit card company sends to you.  Identity thieves DO check trash cans and dumpsters for these pre-approved credit offers.

6. Remove your name from the marketing lists of the three credit reporting bureaus to reduce the number of pre-approved credit offers you receive.   You can Opt Out with the three major credit bureaus to be excluded from pre-approved, unsolicited offers.

7. Once a year place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Copy both sides of your license and credit cards so you have all the account numbers, expiration dates and phone numbers if your wallet or purse is stolen.  Keep this paper locked in a safe place at home.  Remember to update it annaully, perhaps on your birthday or other significant date.

8. Do not mail any payments from an unsecured mailbox.  Send mail that includes account numbers and/or checks from the post office, a U.S. Postal Service official blue mailbox, a secure mail service facility or a locked mailbox.  And do not leave your incoming mail unattended.  Consider a locking secure mailbox at your home or renting one from a local store with mailbox services.

9. Always use a secured website when shopping online.  Look for the https: at the beginning of the web address; the “s” indicates a secure site.  Other icons may be present such as the padlock in Internet Explorer, VeriSign and other certifications.

10. Set up a Credit Monitoring Plan.  Checking your own credit report does NOT count against your scores and is an effective way to look for signs of mixed identity or identity theft.  Mark your calendar or planner to check one every four months for year round monitoring.

Thanks to Dana Coyle for the great suggestions on reducing your risk of Identity Theft. There’s a bunch more info on her company’s website.


—  Russell Palmer