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Top 10 Ways to Protect Your Identity

  1. Don’t give personal information over the phone. Tell anyone who calls asking for your Social Security, credit card, or bank account numbers that you don’t give that information over the phone and that they can contact you by mail.

  2. Go paperless. If you haven’t already done so, sign up for paperless billing with your creditors, bank, utilities, etc., to receive billing statements online through secure sites.

  3. Shred everything. Shred or tear up anything containing your name, address, credit card information, or bank account numbers before putting it in the trash or recycle bin. This includes unused credit card offers.

  4. Review financial statements. Take the time each month to balance your checkbook and review your credit card statements for any suspicious charges. Keep your credit card and ATM receipts in a safe place until you balance your accounts, and then shred them.

  5. Use a secure postal mailbox. Don't leave bill payment envelopes in a home mailbox for pickup by a mail carrier. Someone might steal them. Instead, put your envelopes inside a postal mailbox.

  6. Opt out from pre-approved credit card offers. Identity thieves can use them to set up fraudulent accounts in your name. To put a stop to having prescreened credit offers mailed to you, call 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688), go online to www.optoutprescreen.com, or contact the Direct Marketing Association.

  7. Keep technology secured. Make sure the computer you are using has up-to-date anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall, and other security software. Additionally, don’t shop online unless you know you are on a secure website. Log off of a computer before shutting down and don’t save your user name and passwords on public or private computers.

  8. Don't get hooked by "phishing." Scam artists looking to get personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security numbers, and other pieces of data send spam emails hoping to lure you into divulging this important information. If you get an unexpected email asking you to update or verify any important information, be careful—even if the sender’s email address looks authentic. It might be a "phisher" trying to steal your personal information. For more information, visit www.phishinginfo.org.

  9. Check your credit report. Look for errors in your information and be sure all accounts are correct. To receive a free report each year from each of the three national credit reporting firms, go to www.annualcreditreport.com.

  10. Report identity theft. If you're a victim of identity theft, report the crime to the police immediately.

For additional information, visit the Federal Trade Commission's website.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by CashCourse or the National Endowment for Financial Education. These courses and related resources may be used only for nonprofit, noncommercial educational purposes. CashCourse makes every effort to keep the information in these courses current, but, over time, new developments as well as legislative and regulatory changes may date this material. If you discover inaccurate information, please contact us.]

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