For the last 15 years, identity theft has been the top complaint reported to the Federal Trade Commission. This is a growing problem, and though there’s no way to protect yourself completely, there are things you can do to limit your exposure. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) offers 15 tips to avoid identity theft:
1. Cross-shred sensitive documents you receive that you don’t intend to keep, including credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, health forms, old billing statements, etc. Also, cut up expired credit and debit cards. Cut thoroughly with scissors through the numbers.
2. Protect your Social Security number, account numbers and passwords. Don’t carry these around. Only give out your Social Security number when it’s absolutely necessary and to organizations you’ve verified. Offer to provide another form of identification.
3. Secure or lock sensitive personal documents around your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your house.
4. Minimize the information you print on checks. You don’t need to include your phone number or driver’s license.
5. Monitor your bank and credit card transactions for unauthorized activity. Crooks who gain access to your accounts will generally start with a small charge to see if you’ll notice.
6. If you receive an offer or solicitation, research the company for free with Better Business Bureau at bbb.org or 800-646-6222.
7. Conduct business online on your own computer. Public computers are less secure.
8. Never respond to phone calls or emails asking to “verify” your personal information. Your bank, credit card company, the IRS – none of these organizations will call or email asking for your confidential information. They already have it.
10. Never communicate sensitive personal information, such as passwords, your Social Security number or credit card numbers through email.
11. Don’t use obvious passwords such as your birth date, child’s name or birth date, mother’s maiden name or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
12. Don’t store credit card numbers or other financial information on your smartphone or tablet. Add a passcode lock (or security password) to unlock your device.
13. Don’t store passwords, tax returns or other financial information on your computer hard drive.
14. Be mindful about how much information you share through social media. Remember, you may not always know who sees it.
15. Check your credit score at least once per year – for free – from each of the three credit reporting agencies by calling 877-322-8228 or visit AnnualCreditReport.com
For the latest consumer news, fraud alerts and free BBB Business Reviews, visit bbb.org.
The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.