By Barbara George
1) Know above all that you may not always succeed at this! There are NO
guarantees! As in all things, however, being informed is the best
2) Hold your SS# very close - don’t pass it to anyone you do not know. If it is necessary to give it to say - your doctors office, do it in writing, not aloud.
3) Limit your credit card applications-10% off at the local mall is not worth the hassle in the end. You are giving that employee behind the counter (who may or may not be there next WEEK) too much information! Also, the 'hits' those applications make on your credit report can reduce your credit rating. Close out all zero balance accounts. Be CERTAIN they are closed. Don't respond to free credit reports on the internet. DO NOT JUST TOSS OUT MAIL OFFERS FOR CREDIT - SHRED THEM!
4) Don’t carry your checkbook with you at all times. It is very easy to 'lift' it off of someone, leave it behind at a counter, and checks are too easy to copy. If you feel the need to hide one or two checks do it someplace not thought of (my daughter hides one in her tampon carrying case - genius!) Don’t store passwords on a PDA or store in your purse or wallet.
5) Don’t leave your copy on a restaurant table or counter. Check ALL receipts! Many older established businesses are still using credit card machines which put your ENTIRE number on the receipt. Do talk to the manager - they may not be aware of this issue, and should be getting new equipment - keep people accountable!
6) When out for a 'festive' evening, and you know you may be not as careful as normal, think ahead. Carry a small amount of cash and limited credit cards; the real necessities and leave the rest at home. Also, when traveling limit what you carry in the way of credit cards.
7) Don’t give out too much information. You may be excited about your upcoming world cruise - but don’t let everyone know about it! The bus boy or hair stylist or person sitting in the next booth may have a 'sideline' job. Don’t let EVERYONE know your home is empty, have someone pick up mail, etc.
8) A locking mailbox is a great addition to your safety, but even a locking mailbox can be gotten into by someone trying hard enough! The information coming through the daily postman is vital and important information. Pay attention to what you ARE GETTING AND TO WHAT YOU ARE NOT! If you think you are missing a bill - you may be. Keep a copy of your local utilities phone numbers (available off the bill) with your account numbers for easy access. If you don't get a phone bill for a couple of months - CALL THEM! Either a locking mailbox or a post office box can be purchased easily.
9) Don't give it away. YOUR TRASH IS AN IDENTITY THIEVES DREAM! Use a confetti shredder, split up your records when throwing large numbers out (i.e. in several BLACK trash bags - that way someone has to REALLY work at getting at YOUR records).
10) Your children need to learn about this complex situation from you. I want to remind you all to use this information with your kids. Don't assume that your children will not be the victim of identity fraud. Spend time talking about financial situations with our next generations. Have them know the drill - the numbers, the rules, the dangers. Along with the college applications and the prom dresses - give your kids information that can keep them from having this happen to them as well. They probably will not learn about this in school and it could easily hurt them financially in the future.
11) DON’T SLEEP THROUGH LIFE. If your local news has a story on identity theft, do a simple check of your habits. If your neighbor finds mail trashed around their mailbox, check yours out too. You may not be the victim today - but you MAY be at a later date. Or it could already have happened -- many times ID theft takes several months to show up as the thieves hold on to info to throw off authorities. You may not know it yet. REMEMBER, it takes 14 months on average to realize you have been the victim of identity fraud. REALLY check your statements. REALLY pay attention to your habits. If something seems out of place, or not correct, it is your responsibility to correct it.
12) DON’T USE ANY OLD PEN! The pen you got from the dentist’s office may= just cost you the cash in your accounts. The ink is easily ‘washed’ (with= acetone - yes, simple nail polish remover) and can be 'replaced'. GEL ink pens are the safest route to go.
©2005 Barbara George, All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to use and forward any information shared in the Clean Slate Newsletter as long as you include complete attribution, including live web site link. Please also notify me where it will be used. The attribution should read: "By Barbara George of Clean Slate Organizational Consulting. Visit my site at _www.cleanslateconsulting.com_ (http://www.cleanslateconsulting.com) or call at 360-281-5332."