10 Tips To Avoid Identity Theft In 2010

IdentityTruth is sharing its top 10 tips for avoiding ID theft in 2010.

IdentityTruth’s statistics point to a continual year-to-year increase in identity theft-related crimes, indicating that as criminals get more savvy, identity theft becomes easier to perpetrate. The best bet is for consumers to remain informed on how different life events -- from shopping and traveling to starting college and getting married -- increase their risk for ID theft.

“ID theft is about much more than simple credit card fraud. What many consumers may not realize is that at different points in one’s life, we are all made more vulnerable to identity theft related crime,” said Steven Domenikos, CEO of IdentityTruth. “Taking some simple steps now and being extra-vigilant can help people from becoming victims of identity theft.”

IdentityTruth offers the top 10 tips for 2010 to help consumers be more aware of their ID theft risk this year:

  • When traveling: Know where your credit cards/debit cards are at all times -- it’s easy to get distracted when on vacation and out of your usual routine. Double-check credit card receipts when traveling out of the country, as some receipts still print out the cardholder’s full name and credit card number. If you’re going to throw receipts in the trash, be sure to shred them.
  • When shopping: Be careful when using ATMs: only use ATMs with monitoring cameras, such as those in bank lobbies. Avoid kiosk ATMs, those freestanding units often do not have cameras and are statistically more likely to be infected by skimmers (electronic devices that allow thieves to record account and PIN numbers). "Shoulder Surfing" can also be a problem at crowded stores, so don’t be afraid to question someone that is standing too close. When making purchases online, look for a familiar logo that indicates that the site is deemed secure.
  • When filing taxes: Check with the Better Business Bureau to determine the creditability of your tax preparer before you entrust them with access to your personal information. Beware of calls “from” the IRS: if you receive a phone call from the IRS asking for personal information, hang up, because it’s a scam. Also, the IRS does NOT email taxpayers: if you receive emails pretending to be from the IRS asking for your personal information, this is also a scam. Don’t use online filing programs (make sure the tax filing software resides on your desktop) -- online filing programs are easily penetrated by identity thieves, and sensitive information could end up on countless other servers. And finally, protect your desktop: make sure your computer has the latest antivirus and spyware to protect you from invasion.
  • When getting married: For women -- definitively make the decision to either keep your maiden name or assume your spouse’s name -- using both leaves room for error, as it would be difficult to keep track of where you’re using one versus the other. Keep your marriage license and other personal documents locked in a safe and secure place. Make sure your SSN does not appear on the marriage license, and decide how you will filling for taxes (jointly or separately) and file early with the correct name.
  • When starting college: Almost half of all college students receive credit card applications on a daily or weekly basis. Many of these students throw out card applications without destroying them -- be sure to destroy yours. Almost 50 percent of students have had grades posted by Social Security number -- when you go to the security office to get your student ID, be sure to ask the school to not use your social security number as your college ID number.
  • With consumer electronics: Never store identifying names, companies, or login information on your cell phone. If you lose your cell phone, all this information can be easily extracted off your SIM Card and used to access your personal information. If you lose your cell phone, contact your provider immediately to report the loss. IdentityTruth’s research shows reported cases of stolen computers have more than doubled over 2008 -- have your laptop engraved with identifying information, as research shows that thieves are then less likely to steal them.
  • When using social networking sites: With millions of people using social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace -- and sharing sensitive information such as their full name, date of birth and address information - there are countless opportunities for identity thieves. Individuals should set restrictions on their profiles so that only friends can view their information, and should delete history/cookies if accessing those sites through public computers.
  • When a loved one passes away: Although it may seem unthinkable, statistics show that identity thieves prey on the sick or deceased (known as “ghosting") due to an increased likelihood that the theft will go undetected. Notify the Social Security Administration of a death at 800-722-1213. The SSA maintains a master file that is used by all the CRAs before issuing credit. Close all bank and credit accounts and remove the deceased’s name from all joint accounts, and notify credit reporting agencies of the death.
  • The basics: Write “see id” on the back of each credit card and demand that the recipient verify your identity. Frequently look over your credit reports- question all suspicious activities. Before and after you use your credit card, be sure to cover the numbers with your hand- you never know who may be watching. Shred all credit card applications that come in via mail.
  • Consider signing up for an ID theft monitoring service: Identity theft is America’s fastest growing crime. Your security goes well beyond your credit report. Identity thieves can apply for government benefits, receive medical care, obtain driver’s licenses and jobs all in your name. ID theft monitoring services provides alerts beyond what shows up on your credit report; when considering an ID theft monitoring services, comparison shop to find the one that provides the greatest value.
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