Want to avoid Identity Theft? Here’s how.

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Did you know that Identity Theft is a big threat to everybody; particularly to our senior population? Assisted Transition of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky wants to provide you with the tips and warning signs on how to avoid Identity Theft.

First and foremost.  Keep only essential documents in your purse or wallet like your driver’s license, credit, debit and ATM cards. Memorize your Social Security card number and never carry it with you. Don’t keep a list of personal identification numbers or PINs in your purse or wallet, and never write your PIN on the card. Be careful not to routinely carry documents with you, such as your passport or birth certificate. Keep these important documents in a safe deposit box or at home in a locked file cabinet. If you experience a burglary, jewelry and electronics aren’t the only valuables thieves might take. Personal documents can be worth much more.

Limit the information on your checks.  Having your driver’s license number or social security number imprinted on your personal checks to save time when you write one may be convenient — but not smart. If those numbers fall into the wrong hands, too much information will be revealed about you. So leave that information off of your personal checks, money orders, and cashier checks.

Watch your back.  When entering your credit card or PIN number in an ATM machine, at a phone booth, or even on a computer, be aware of who is nearby and make sure no one is looking over your shoulder and watching what keys you are pressing.

Be careful about checking your statements.  There are two benefits here. First, if you are careful about checking your bank and credit statements each month, you will be aware if one of them doesn’t arrive on time in the mail. That can alert you that perhaps someone stole it from your mailbox or while in transit. Second, you can ensure that the charges, purchases or other entries on the statement are legitimate and match up with your records so that you can quickly identify and address any questionable activity.

Receive your banking and credit statements online.  For many, this is a worry-free and safer way to monitor banking and credit statements. You only need a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone to sign up, or just contact you financial institution for assistance.

Watch your mailbox.  The mailbox next to your front door or at the end of your driveway is a thief’s treasure bounty. If you’re going away on vacation or for just a few days, arrange to have a relative, friend or neighbor pick up your mail, or have the post office temporarily stop delivery. If you don’t receive mail for a couple of days, contact your post office. Thieves are likely to file change-of-address forms to have your mail sent to another location, where they can then collect your personal and financial information, and steal your identity.

Shred everything.  One of the ways that would be identity thieves acquire information is through dumpster-diving, aka trash-picking. If you are throwing out bills, credit card statements, ATM receipts, medical statements or even junk-mail solicitations from credit cards and mortgages, you may be leaving too much information lying around. Buy a personal shredder and shred this information.

Protect yourself online.  Avoid using obvious passwords online, such as your name, immediate family names, birth dates, etc. When getting rid of an old computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone, make sure there’s no information on the hard drive or memory card. If you’re not sure how to do delete such content, call the manufacturer or visit their website. Stay alert for “phishing” emails, in which the sender seeks personal information. Check to make sure that emails from creditors and other companies you have accounts with are legitimate — identity thieves can set up email accounts similar to major firms.

Analyze your credit report annually.  This has always been good advice, but it used to cost money, or you had to first be rejected from receiving credit so that you could get a free copy. Now it’s possible to get a free look at your credit report once per year. The big three credit reporting agencies; Equifax: 800-525-6285, Experian: 888-397-3742, and TransUnion: 800-680-7289 joined forces to provide free credit reports to consumers. The website is annualcreditreport.com. You should review it to make sure the information on it is accurate and also make sure that there aren’t any accounts on there that you aren’t aware of or any other suspicious entries or activity. Also, check out CreditKarma. It’s website www.creditkarma.com will provide you with your credit score and more free of charge.

Report Identity Theft.  If you believe, you’ve been a victim of identity theft; file a complaint with the police in the community where the identity theft took place. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338 or visit http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/media/audio-0040-if-youre-victim-identity-theft. Seniors are more vulnerable to identity theft because it is constantly evolving and computer-based, an area of expertise seniors typically lack. They need support from the entire community.

If Assisted Transition of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky can help support you or a loved one with a transition to a senior living or retirement community, please contact us for a free consultation about all of your senior living options.

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