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Identity Theft Tips and Information...Posted Wednesday, June 29, 2011, at 9:53 AM
The following information is from Mo. Attorney General Chris Kostner's office:
What is identity theft?
This occurs when someone uses your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes. The thief takes your Social Security number, bank account number or other information and causes problems, like taking out loans in your name or charging money to your bank account or credit card.
How do I prevent identity theft?
Don't give out your Social Security or account numbers unless you initiate the contact.
Leave your Social Security number off checks and driver's license.
Shred trash with sensitive information. Including convenience checks and credit card offers you get in the mail. To stop these unrequested credit card offers go to www.optoutprescreen.com or call toll free 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
Send sensitive mail using a post office drop box, rather than your curbside mailbox.
Carry only the documents and credit cards you need on a daily basis. Don't carry your
Social Security card.
On your computer, use virus protection, a firewall and spyware detection.
Freeze your credit report. By placing a security freeze on your credit report, you make your personal information useless to a thief. When lenders or creditors try to access your credit report, they will not be able to see it. Thus, they won't issue new credit in your name. If you freeze your credit report, you can temporarily lift it when you need to apply for credit.
How do I detect identity theft?
Check bank statements at least monthly -- watch for unauthorized withdrawals and debits.
Check credit card statements at least monthly -- watch for unauthorized charges.
Check your free credit report three times a year -- watch for unrecognized entries. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com or call toll-free 877-322-8228. Three companies participate: Trans Union, Experian and Equifax. Choose which company's report you want -- the law allows you one free report per year from each company. Each credit bureau charges $5 for this service, and you can find instructions at: www.experian.com; www.transunion.com; www.equifax.com
What do I do if it happens? Act quickly!
Contact your bank or credit-card company and report it.
Close the accounts you know the thief has accessed, or get new account numbers.
File a police report and keep a copy -- prosecutors need it, and some banks and creditors will too.
Contact the Attorney General's ID Theft Hotline or Web site at: ago.mo.gov (Attorney General Koster's Web site) or Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline 800-392-8222.
As always, if you have questions or concerns regarding this information you may call our office at 335-3331 locally or toll-free at 1-800-392-8771.
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Ruth Dockins is the Public Information Director for the Southeast Missouri Area Agency on Aging and author of 'Age Spots,' a column/blog which is featured in several Southeast Missouri newspapers and is devoted to seniors and senior lifestyles.
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