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Our personal information can get into the wrong hands in a variety of ways which could result in identity theft. The good news is that there are things you can do to help prevent thieves from compromising your identity.

Carry The Bare Minimum

According to AAA you should keep in your wallet only what you know you will need. Try to leave extra credit cards at home. It is a good idea to leave your passport and social security card at home as well. Avoid keeping unnecessary personal information in your wallet.

Be Aware Of Your Surroundings

You may want to shield your hand when using ATM machines, phone cards or if you are making a purchase with your debit card. Be aware of anyone standing behind you or close enough to see you enter your PIN number. Never leave an ATM or credit card receipt behind.

Online Shopping

Try to make sure you are purchasing from a reputable dealer with a secure network. Look for sites that display the “lock” security symbol which should indicate that the site is secure. The Federal Trade Commission’s consumer alert, 10 Tips for Smart Holiday Shopping Online, offers advice that is good to remember throughout the year. Also, MSN Money suggests choosing online passwords that are not obvious. You may want to change them occasionally.

Review Invoices And Statements

Check all of your accounts regularly and monitor all transactions. If you notice any problems, alert the customer service department for that account immediately. Also, if you are still receiving “pre-approved” credit card offers, call 1-888-5OPTOUT to remove your name from the mailing list. If thieves find these offers in your trash, they may attempt to open accounts in your name. You may want to consider investing in an inexpensive shredder to destroy any documents that contain personal information.

Review All Medical Bills

If you’ve been to the hospital or physician, review your statements. If you don’t understand a charge, contact the appropriate billing department immediately.

Already A Victim?

If you believe your identity has been compromised you should place a fraud alert with the three credit bureaus. If you find your suspicions are true after monitoring your credit report, MSN Money suggests closing all accounts associated with the theft and following up with a certified letter. Also consider filing a complaint with the FTC as well as the office of your state’s attorney general.  

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