There’s always a sense of helplessness and vulnerability when a transaction appears on your bank statement that you did not commit.
Or, when you receive a phone call from the bank about your credit card being used in a different state—or even different country.
Identity theft cases like those and others begin with the misuse of your personal information, such as your name, Social Security number, or bank account numbers, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department.
Sheriffs released the following list of 12 tips to help residents prevent identity thefts from occurring:
- Check your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus annually.
- Always open your credit card bills and bank statements right away. Review your statements and close unused accounts.
- If bills don’t arrive on time, it might mean that someone has changed contact information on your accounts to hide fraudulent charges.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card or PIN numbers in your purse or wallet, because of what can happen if they fall into the wrong hands.
- Avoid giving any personal information over the phone, mail, or Internet unless you know who is receiving the information on the other end of the correspondence.
- Be aware that criminals pretend to collect money for victims during natural disasters—sometimes they claim to be police officers and ask for donations.
- Elderly people are frequently targeted in money scams. Be willing to help older family members and vulnerable neighbors.
- Make sure that you disconnect your laptop from a broadband or a shared connection when you are not using it.
- Avoid offers online that sound too good to be true.
- Remove your name from mailing lists for pre-approved credit offers. Pre-approved credit card offers are a target for identity thieves who steal your mail. You can have your name removed from credit bureau marketing lists by calling toll-free 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
- Only enter personal information on secure Web pages that encrypt your data in transit, which you can often tell if a page is secure if "https" is in the URL or if there is a padlock icon on the browser window.
- If you use a mailbox, do so during or close to the posted pickup hours. Better yet, drop your mail off at your local post office. Retrieve mail promptly and discontinue delivery while out of town.