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A consumer’s top 10 tips to prevent identity theft

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A consumer’s top 10 tips to prevent identity theft

A consumer’s top 10 tips to prevent identity theft

Identity fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country today, impacting several million people per year. According to a 2010 Identity Fraud Survey report*, about 11 million people were victims of identity fraud during 2009.

Traditional shopping

  1. Review your wallet or purse contents before you go shopping. Common theft is the easiest way for a criminal to steal your identity and commit fraud. Before you go shopping, think about how much information a thief would obtain if your wallet or purse was stolen. Avoid carrying Social Security cards, birth certificates or passports unless absolutely necessary. Don’t carry extra credit cards unless you plan to use them.
  2. Create a list of all your credit card and bank account information and store in a secure place. Be sure to include account numbers, expiration dates and credit limits. Also include the telephone numbers or e-mails or the customer service and fraud departments. If you find your card missing or stolen, refer to this list and immediately notify your credit card provider of the loss. This not only prevents fraudulent charges, but it also notifies your provider if the card is used again.
  3. Protect your Passwords and PINS. When creating passwords and PINs, do not use the last four digits of your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, your birth date, middle name, pet’s name, consecutive numbers or anything else that could easily be discovered by identity fraud thieves. It’s best to create passwords that combine letters and numbers.

    Ask your financial institutions to add extra security protection to your account. Most will allow you to use an additional code or password (a number or word) when accessing your account. If asked to create a reminder question, do not use one that is easily answered by others. Memorize all your passwords. Don’t record them on anything in your wallet.

  4. Review your credit report now. One of the easiest ways to see if a criminal has stolen your identity is to review your credit report. Be sure to report mistakes to the credit bureaus. A federal law gives consumers the right to receive one free copy of their credit report every 12 months from each of the three main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion).

    Order a report today from one bureau and review it, looking for discrepancies. In four months, order another report from a second bureau. In another four months, order a report from the third bureau. Doing this will enable you to see snapshots of your credit throughout the year at no cost.

  5. Never provide confidential information over the phone to an unsolicited caller claiming that they represent a financial institution or creditor. ID criminals often will use your social security number to open up fraudulent accounts or gain access to financial information or assets, especially with increased activity around the holidays. Do not have your Social Security number printed on your checks and do not allow merchants to write your Social Security number on your checks. If a business requests your Social Security number, ask them why they need it. If it is not a valid reason, don’t provide it. If you receive an unsolicited call and are asked to provide information, get the caller’s name, location, telephone number, and reason that they are calling. Call them back at the phone number on your billing statements to verify the caller’s identification.
  6. Never put outgoing checks or bill payments in your home mailbox, as they are easy to steal. While sending checks is a popular and desired holiday gift, it also has its risks, as thieves can steal mail containing checks and gain other personal information from bills and financial statements. Where practical, drop all items containing checks or financial information in a secure postal mailbox or at the post office.

Online shopping & Identity Protection

  1. Log off completely when finished with online transactions. Closing or minimizing your browser or typing a new Web address may not be enough to prevent others from accessing your online information. Instead, click “log off” to terminate your online session. In addition, don’t allow your browser to “remember” your username and password information.
  2. Increase your own computer’s security. Personal firewalls and security software packages (with anti-virus, anti-spam, and spyware detection features) are a must-have for those who plan on shopping online this season. Make sure your computer has the latest security patches, and make sure that you access your online financial accounts only on a secure Web page using encryption.
  3. Avoid e-mailing personal and financial information. Although your computer may be “well protected” with proper firewall, antivirus, Internet security or encryption software, the individual or company receiving your information may not have similar security in place. Always confirm with online retailers that they have proper Internet security in place before responding to any e-mail request.
  4. Delete, without replying to, any suspicious e-mail requests. Hackers and spammers often impersonate retailers to lure personal financial information. If there is any reason to doubt the authenticity of an e-mail message from a company you do business with, don’t click on links or buttons in the message. Instead, type the Internet address of the company into your browser, log on as you usually do, and examine your account information. You may also telephone a company to ask if an e-mail is legitimate.

A winter storm is bearing down. Are you ready?

A winter storm is bearing down.
Are you ready?

Bitter temperatures, howling winds and icy precipitation can easily turn a pretty winter snowfall into a dangerous event.

With a storm now on your doorstep, here are a few things you can do to stay safe and warm while the storm
passes through.

Check your supplies. Make sure you have a snow shovel and ice melt to keep walkways clear and safe. Check that you have sufficient heating fuel for your home and fuel for your generator, if you have one. If you will be using a fireplace or wood-burning stove, you should have a good supply of dry, seasoned wood. Have warm clothing and blankets on h and and stock non-perishable food items and necessary medications to last you and your family several days.

Get ready for a power outage. Turn your heat up now and close off any rooms that are not in use. Check pipe insulation and allow water to run at a trickle to prevent pipes from freezing. Charge your battery-powered electronic and communications devices. A battery-powered radio can help keep you aware of changing weather conditions. Get out your flashlights, batteries, first aid kit and other emergency supplies.

Stay warm – and safe. If you start a wood-burning fire, follow all fireplace safety precautions. Do not use an oven or a range as a home heating device. If you have a generator, use it outside only, where there is sufficient ventilation. Test all of your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure they work properly. Do not let c andles burn unattended, and keep them away from combustibles. LED c andles are a safe, energy efficient alternative. Also, if you have an ice dam prevention system, turn it on before the snow starts to fall.

Stay inside – and safe. Drive only if you absolutely must, and be sure your car is outfitted with snow tires, has adequate fuel and an emergency supply kit. If you go outside to shovel, know your limits and try not to overtax your body.
Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing layers of warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing. Stay away from any downed power lines you may see. Keep your pets inside, or make other suitable arrangements for them.

We at Travelers hope these measures will help get you through the storm safely and comfortably.

Find more suggestions on long-term planning for a winter storm by visiting our page on winterizing your home.

Prevent theft

Thous ands of unsuspecting motorists are carjacked every year. Here are some tips to help prevent your vehicle from being car jacked or stolen

To minimize the danger of being carjacked:

  • Think of saving your life first. Only then, think of your car and what’s in it.
  • If another car bumps your car, stay inside with the windows shut and the door locked and drive to the nearest police or fire station.
  • Don’t stop at isolated pay phones, cash machines or newspaper machines where you could become a carjacking victim.
  • Stay alert to people lurking near or moving toward your parked car.
  • Always keep the windows of your car shut and doors locked, whether you’re in or out of your car.
  • Park only in well-lighted areas.

To prevent your car from being stolen:

  • Keep your registration card in your wallet instead of your glove compartment
  • Use paint or an indelible marker to put the vehicle identification number (VIN) under the engine hood and trunk lid and on the battery. This number is usually found on the dashboard on the driver’s side of the car.
  • If you have to leave personal property in your car, leave it in the trunk.
  • Keep your car in a garage and lock the garage door.
  • Use a security device like a steering wheel lock or a gear shift column lock.

If your car is stolen, have the following information ready to give to the police:

  • The year, make, model and color of the car.
  • The approximate time the car was stolen.
  • A description of anyone you may have seen loitering around your car before it was stolen.
  • The names of any witnesses.
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