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How to Prevent Identity Theft

The LASD is urging residents to protect themselves from identity theft with these tips.

Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing types of fraud in the nation. The L.A. District Attorney says that thousands of people in L.A. County are victims of identity theft each year. The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department has released these tips on how you can protect yourself from identity theft:

  • Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personal identifying information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information.
  • Check your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year. 
  • Open your credit card bills and bank statements right away. Review your statements and close unused accounts. Be aware if bills don’t arrive on time. It may mean that someone has changed contact information to hide fraudulent charges. 
  • Don’t carry your Social Security card or PIN numbers in your purse or wallet because of what can happen if they fall into the wrong hands. 
  • Avoid giving any personal information over the phone, mail, or Internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Give it to them in person instead. 
  • Criminals pretend they are collecting money for victims of a natural disaster. Sometimes they claim to be police officers and ask for donations. 
  • Elderly people are frequently targeted in money scams. Keep a helpful eye for elderly family members and vulnerable neighbors. 
  • Make sure that you disconnect your laptop from a broadband or a shared connection when you are not using it. 
  • Avoid offers and pop-ups that sound too good to be true. They want you to enter your information so they can access all of your personal information. 
  • Remove your name from mailing lists for pre-approved credit offers. Pre-approved credit card offers are a target for identity thieves who steal your mail. Have your name removed from credit bureau marketing lists. Call toll-free 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688). 
  • Only enter personal information on secure Web pages that encrypt your data in transit. You can often tell if a page is secure if "https" is in URL or if there is a padlock icon on the browser window.
  • If you’re going to use a mail box, do so during or close to the posted pick up hours. Better yet, drop your mail off at your local post office. Retrieve mail promptly and discontinue delivery while out of town.
Peggy Casmer June 15, 2011 at 04:33 PM
One place people should start with is FACEBOOK - don't list your complete Birth Date... it is one step closer to having all your personal information!
Brian June 16, 2011 at 10:31 PM
Also - If you run a wireless router at home or office make SURE it is running in 'secure' mode; otherwise anyone driving by can log into your home / office network an sniff around / hack into those computers. Make sure you run your computer in a 'user' account (not 'administrator') which makes it more difficult for hackers to penetrate into your operating system - either on the 'net' or through the wireless network at home / office. If your computer boots up to a desktop with no choice of accounts to log into, you are then probably running the computer as an administrator which is a security compromise. Run a good antivirus AND a good spyware program. A good FREE antivirus is Avira. A good FREE antispyware program is: "'Spybot Search & Destroy." Finally: NEVER, never, never EVER store passwords, bank account numbers, User names or any personal data on your computer that could be damaging to you if compromised.
Brian June 16, 2011 at 10:44 PM
If you have a Chase bank account / credit or debit card, keep in mind that these debit / credit cards utilize a tiny wireless radio frequency chip tranceiver in the card. Turn your card over, if it says 'blink' on the back, the chip is in the card and can be easily skimmed by someone with a modified POS tranceiver. (Why Chase implemented this, I have no idea.) You can make purchases by placing the card near the POS terminal and the terminal transmitts to the card and the card reports back the account information to complete sales transaction. Be aware if someone bumps up against you or you purse or backside where a wallet is stored; it is possible someone could be attempting to skim the card's information. BofA and Citibank don't seem to have these RF chips in their cards. You can request a new card from Chase without the 'blink' chip tranceiver.

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