Good online security starts offline

Identity theft has become so prevalent that entire industries and services have emerged to detect, prevent, and resolve its consequences. Identity theft can cause denial of credit, loss of jobs, and arrest for crimes committed by others. The process of cleaning up after identity theft is often frustrating, time consuming, and costly. We offer a few tips to help you prevent identity theft:

• Don’t give out your personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call. Gathering personal information using leading questions is a favorite technique of identity thieves.

• Never carry your Social Security card. Once someone has your Social Security number, they have a crucial piece of your personal information needed to steal your identity.

• Keep track of your credit or debit card receipts as they often contain partial account numbers and other identifying information.

• Shred sensitive documents rather than simply throwing them away. Dumpster diving is a low-tech technique that can yield enough information to open fraudulent accounts.

• Know when you typically receive credit, debit, or store charge card billing statements as thieves may try to intercept them from your mailbox. Once they have access, they can begin to aggregate enough information to open other lines of credit.

• Take advantage of free annual credit reports. Monitoring your credit report may be the only way you can see evidence of a new line of credit, loan, or credit card that has been opened in your name. When thieves take over your identity, they often redirect statements to their addresses to avoid detection. By law, you have access to one free credit report each year from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion at

• The three primary credit bureaus have marketing lists for credit cards and other offers. You can request to be removed from those lists, which limits the number of offers you receive and the volume of offers that could be stolen from your mail or trash.

For additional tips on Internet security, visit:

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