Protect Your Financial Identity

by : BZ Riger-Hull

Someone impersonating you could be spending your hard-earned money.

Impossible! Not really, check, loan, and identity fraud are a real problem. In 2002, the federal trade commission estimated that identity fraud affected and estimated 3.3 million Americans; costing consumers $3.8 billion and business $32.9 billion.

Here are 10 ways to protect yourself from having your financial identity used for someone else’s shopping spree:

1. Order your credit report once a year from each of the three credit bureaus to make sure that you are familiar with all of the reported transactions and that there isn't any unusual activity. Call (888) 5OPT-OUT to request to have your name removed from their marketing lists.

2. Cancel all unused credit card accounts, and make sure to keep a copy of your credit cards and the toll free contact numbers so you can report the card number immediately if it is lost or stolen.

3. Don't carry extra credit cards, your social security card or passports in the same wallet except when completely unavoidable.

4. Install a locked mailbox at your office or home to keep people from snatching your mail. Don't drop paid bills in the mailbox; take them to the post office to be mailed.

5. Ask your bank about its privacy policies and information practices. Find out the circumstances under which your bank would provide your account information to a third party.

6. Always save your credit card receipts to match against your monthly statement. Keep track of when your cards expire to make sure your new card arrives in the mail.

7. Never have your social Security number printed on your checks. Never put your account information on the outside of an envelope or on a postcard. Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. Ask if you can use another type of identifying number whenever possible.

8. Review your phone bills and cellular phone bills each moth for any unauthorized use. And compare your ATM receipts and cashed checks with your periodic bank statements to check for unauthorized transfers or charges.

9. When filling out a loan or credit application, ask how the company disposes of them. When you receive one of those pre approved credit card offers in the mail make sure to cut it in small pieces before throwing it away.

10. When creating passwords or Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) choose something different from your address, telephone number, middle name, the last four digits of your Social Security number, your birth date or any other information that could be easily discovered by thieves.

Bonus- Always write checks using a fine point permanent marker and put a line before the written amount so that no one can add something in once you’ve written the check.


Credit reporting bureaus:

Eqifax- P.O. Box 740241 Atlanta GA 30374-0241.

To report fraud 800-525-6285

To order a credit report 800-685-1111

To opt out of pre-approved credit offers 888-567-8688

Experian- P.O. Box 2104 Allen TX 75013-2104

To report fraud or to order a credit report 888-397-3742.

To opt out of pre-approved credit offers 888-567-8688

Trans Union- P.O. Box 390 Springfield PA 19064-0390.

To report fraud 800-680-7289.

To order a credit report 800-888-4213

To opt out of pre-approved credit offers 888-567-8688

Check verification companies: To verify if there are any activities on your account from fraud contact these verification companies.

CheckRite- 800-766-2748

Chexsystems- 800-428-9623

National Processing Co. -800-526-5380

Telecheck- 800-710-9898

Social Security Administration-

To report fraud 800-269-0271

To order your earnings and benefits statement