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Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Identity theft is a growing problem, even in a paradise like Hawaii. In fact, because our islands are a tourist destination, we may draw more than our fair share of “opportunists.”

Don’t make it easy for someone to steal your identity and credit information! Here are some steps everyone should follow:

Guard your personal information:

Don’t share your Social Security number unless you absolutely have to, and don’t carry your card in your wallet.

Don’t share your birth date, your home phone number, or mother’s maiden name.

Put as little information on your checks as possible–definitely not your Social Security number or Driver’s License number, and not your home phone number.

Shred, shred, shred, shred!

Thieves search through trash to find statements you’ve thrown away, credit card offers, and other information they can use to recreate your identity. Don’t ever discard something with your personal information, passwords, account numbers, or enrollment forms. Shred!

In your wallet:

Sign your credit cards and bank cards—you can even write “Check Photo ID” in that space as well, if you want to be extra careful.

Make a copy of all your identification (everything in your wallet), with notification phone numbers, and keep in a safe place. Be sure to keep this updated.

Out in public:

Be aware of your surroundings when entering your pin number in public places—don’t let someone look over your shoulder.

Try to pay cash in coffee shops with a lot of laptop users—they can lift your card information.

Don’t shop online or enter secure information on a public WiFi system.

Have your mail collected by a neighbor or put on hold if you will be away.

Don’t leave bills or other revealing mail in your home mailbox for pick up—mail at the Post Office or at a Post Office box.

Online:

Create a strong password system, and don’t use the same password on all sites you frequent. Don’t use easily accessible information for your password: your pet’s name, your birthday, etc; and mix up your password with numbers and capital letters.

Don’t include your personal data (full name, birth date, phone number, address) on Facebook or other social networks.

Don’t expose your location/time/place in real time online (Facebook, FourSquare).

Keep on top of your online privacy settings.

Keep your antivirus settings up to date.

If you make purchases online, buy only on a secure encrypted website—look for the small padlock at the bottom or top of the screen.

Monitor your account activities online—this makes it easy to see if there’s any unauthorized activity. Check over your statements each month.

And finally…

Review your credit reports at least once a year. You’ll be able to check for mistakes, and to see if a thief has taken credit out in your name.

You are entitled by law to a yearly free copy of your credit report from each of the major agencies—do it!

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271

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