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Protect yourself

Here are some tips to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft:

Protect your social security number
Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Memorize your Social Security Number and do not give it out unless absolutely necessary. Review your Social Security Earnings and Benefits statement once each year to make sure that no one else is using your Social Security number for employment.

When does someone really need to know my Social Security Number (SSN)? Financial institutions and employers are required to collect your SSN for tax and wage reporting purposes. In addition, if you are applying for a loan, renting an apartment or opening a utilities account, a SSN may also be required.

Some companies may ask for your SSN as a general record keeping procedure. In these instances, it is your decision whether or not to share this information with companies that do not have a legal obligation to collect your SSN. Be aware, however, that some businesses may choose not to provide the service you request without a SSN.

Be cautious with your mail and trash
Remove all mail from your mailbox everyday, and deposit your outgoing bills in a marked post office collection box. Notify your financial institutions in advance of address or phone number changes.

Shred pre-approved credit applications, credit card receipts, bills and other financial information before discarding them. This will help prevent thieves from retrieving sensitive information from your trash. Never leave receipts at ATMs, on counters, or in trashcans. Keep your paperwork. When you no longer need it, destroy it.

To opt out of receiving prescreened offers of credit in the mail, call: 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688). Note: You will be asked to provide your Social Security number, which the consumer reporting companies need to match you with your file.

Protect your wallet
Empty your wallet of extra credit cards, IDs, or better yet, cancel the ones you don't use and maintain a list of the ones you do. Do not rewrite your PINs on cards or on anything in your wallet or purse. Report all lost or stolen credit cards immediately.

Check your credit report annually
Check your credit report once a year. Look for suspicious activity such as unauthorized applications and inquiries, unfamiliar accounts, defaults and delinquencies that you did not cause.

Never give out sensitive information
Do not give personal information over the phone, such as your Social Security number, birth date, mother's maiden name, credit card number or personal identification number, unless you initiated the phone call.

Use the internet safely
The Internet provides vast resources at your fingertips; everything from shopping and research to news and entertainment. However, identity thieves prey on web users with a variety of scams, schemes and tricks. For a detailed look at Internet fraud and ways to protect you, visit “Internet Safety” located in this resource center.

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