Identity Theft Prevention

The Internet is an amazing tool that, unfortunately, has great potential to be abused. Identify theft, facilitated by the Internet, is the fastest growing type of fraud, according to the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, with millions of Americans having their identity stolen each year.

As devastating as financial fraud can be to one’s credit rating, electronic harassment or “cyber stalking” can have far more traumatic consequences. Consider these recommendations to protect your personal information.

  1. Get an assigned “customer number” from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles instead of using your Social Security number for your driver’s license.
  2. Remove extra information (Social Security number, date of birth, home address) from checks since they easily can be lost or stolen. List first and middle initials and last name on checks.
  3. Memorize your Social Security number and secure it with valuable personal information at home. Do not carry it in your wallet.
  4. Invest in a paper shredder and destroy mail solicitations for credit cards, loans, etc., that contain personal information.
  5. Never give your credit card number over the phone unless you initiate the call. Avoid credit card purchases over the Internet.
  6. Closely monitor your credit card statements to ensure that every charge accurately matches your credit card receipts. Report any discrepancies immediately.
  7. Arrange to receive mail regarding financial matters at a post office box rather than at home, especially if you travel often and have an open mailbox.
  8. Publish professional addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc., on personal Web pages. Limit biographical information. If photographs are used, use action shots. Avoid images that could easily be used for producing false identification documents.
  9. Do not reply to professional email using your personal email address. Reserve your personal email for trusted family and friends. Women should use an ambiguous online ID.
  10. Regularly review your methods of electronic crime prevention, including virus protection, as computer technology advances frequently.