Don’t become a victim of identity theft, follow these ten tips

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BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) – (4/22/19) How common is identity theft? 

You might be surprised by the answer. 

According to LifeLock, “nearly 60 million Americans have been affected by identity theft, according to a 2018 online survey by The Harris Poll.”

In order to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, identitytheft.com provided these tips to help keep it from happening to you:

1. Shred all important financial documents.  
Today’s thieves may be technological masterminds when it comes to manipulating your information for their gain, but that doesn’t mean they are beyond dumpster diving. What you view as trash, they may view as a goldmine. So make sure you cross-shred all documents that may have any of your personal information on them. 

2. Request your free credit reports each year.  
Obtaining your free credit report is easier than you may think. Simply visit http://www.annualcreditreport.com to receive your free reports (you can receive one a year from each of the major credit agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). 

3. Use strong passwords and pin numbers on all financial accounts and change them often.  
In order to protect yourself, make sure that your passwords and pin codes for all financial institutions aren’t obvious to someone who may know you. 

4. Mail all bills from the post office and not your own mailbox.  
Instead of putting your outgoing mail in your mailbox, which may allow your financial information sit unprotected, mail it at the post office where it will be safely locked inside a mailbox while it waits to be picked up. 

5. Reduce your junk mail and unsolicited credit card offers.  
Stop (or significantly reduce) the amount of junk mail-namely credit card offers-you receive by visiting the national credit bureau’s opt out website at: http://www.optoutprescreen.com or call them at 1-888-567-8688. 

6. Always know where your credit card is—even in restaurants and retail stores.  
Using a credit card in venues where you cannot always see the person running your card might be putting you at risk. If keeping your card within your line of sight isn’t always possible, pay with cash instead.  

7. Check if credit card company offers any free safety features for online shopping.  
Although many online retail outlets promise “secure” shopping on their sites, you can never be too safe. Some financial institutions offer built in features to protect you-and your money-from becoming vulnerable. 

8. Don’t carry your social security number with you, and don’t use it as a user ID or password.  
Memorize social security number and then lock your original card away in a safe place. Don’t make copies of it, and don’t give the number out unless it is absolutely necessary. Before giving it out, make sure you ask the institution you are giving it to (mortgage lender, healthcare provider, etc…) what their privacy policy is and how your information will be protected.    

9. Monitor credit card bills and bank statements carefully each month.  
Once a month schedule a time to sit down and study your credit card bills and bank statements so you can ensure that you are only paying for purchases that you authorized or made. Make sure to pay special attention to bills and statements that come just after a vacation, as account information is more easily stolen when people travel.  

10.  Beware of online “friends” who may really be identity thieves in disguise.  
Educate your children about identity theft so they don’t unintentionally pass along personal information to someone who may be posing as a friend. And regularly check your children’s profile pages to make sure addresses and phone numbers aren’t being released to the public. 

If Identity Theft Happens to You:

Despite your best efforts to protect yourself, you still might find yourself as a victim of identity theft. If you do, make sure you contact your local police, all of your financial institutions and all three credit agencies (Equifax: http://www.equifax.com TransUnion: http://www.tuc.com and Experian: http://www.experian.com) right away. You may also want to consider putting a security freeze on your credit report. It will prevent anyone from running your credit without you being notified first. Remember, it’s your identity so it’s your job to protect it.      
   
**Source: www.identitytheft.com

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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