8 Tips to Prevent Identity Theft

By Molly C. Herndon

Military Families Learning Network

Service members and their families can be at an increased risk for scams and financial fraud because multiple moves, deployments, and overseas transactions all present opportunities for their personal financial information to become available to scammers.

Protecting your identity from theft is the most important way to protect yourself from fraud. eXtension’s Dr. Barbara O’Neill offers 8 tips for protecting your identity from thieves:

·    Never click on unsolicited pop-up ads which are often associated with phishing scams or the launch of spyware on a computer. Use strong computer passwords that contain a combination of small letters, capital letters, and numbers in a string at least 10 characters long.
·    Use a crosscut shredder to shred documents with sensitive data. A crosscut shredder is better than a straight line shredder because papers are cut into small pieces instead of strips that could be pieced back together.
·    Avoid giving out your Social Security number. When absolutely necessary (e.g., to receive expense reimbursement), never type it in an e-mail. Instead, give it to the person in authority who is requesting it.
·    Take precautions to secure incoming and outgoing mail. Use locked mail boxes or post office boxes for incoming mail and place outgoing mail in mail boxes and not in open mail trays.
·    Avoid carrying around a lot of identifying information. For example, it is not necessary to carry around your passport unless you are traveling out of the country. It is also wise to make it a point to never provide personal data over the phone to people who call you and to not leave personal data out in the open at home.
·    Write checks with a uni-ball pen that uses specially formulated inks that contain color pigments that cannot be washed away in a “check-washing” scheme. Uni-ball pens can be purchased at any office supply store.
·    Regularly review credit reports (one of the three major credit bureaus every four months) to check for suspicious charges or other evidence of fraud (e.g., new credit accounts that you did not open).
·    Consider a personal policy to never hand over credit cards to others to swipe outside of your view (e.g., waiters at restaurants). This reduces the risk of having data “skimmed” and misused by others. As an alternative, you can elect to hand others your credit card but closely monitor those accounts.

Last fall, the Military Families Learning Network offered a 90-minute webinar on Financial Frauds and Scams. This session offers many great tips and advice about avoiding common financial pitfalls that can make consumers attractive to consumers. View the recording here.


For more information from eXtension about protecting yourself from identity theft, click here.

While July 17 was Military Consumer Protection Day, the initiative is a year round effort to empower active duty and retired servicemembers, military families, veterans and civilians in the military community. Visit http://www.military.ncpw.gov/ and use the free resources as the first line of defense against fraud and make better-informed decisions when managing your money.



 

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