Biz Bits: How to avoid identity theft

Tip of the Week

Identity theft topped the list of national consumer complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission in 2012, for the 13th consecutive year. It accounts for 18 percent of all complaints, up from 15 percent in 2011.

Identity theft can involve taking over your credit account, stealing your tax refund, taking out loans in your name, accessing personal bank accounts or even running up medical bills using your name.

The identity theft experts at Equifax offer some advice:

– When you sign up for a catalog or add your name to a mailing list, consider if the benefit is worth sharing your personal information with someone who could potentially sell it.

– If you sign up for email coupons or loyalty programs, don’t share your full address or any financial information.

– Ensure your passwords used for online banking and shopping sites are strong and unique; use a different password for each site. Mark your calendar to change your passwords every 90 days.

– Request that your medical and insurance providers assign you a unique personal identification number. Don’t reveal medical or insurance information by phone or email unless you made the first contact. File paper and electronic copies of your records in a secure location, and shred any outdated medical documents, including old prescription labels.

– If your passport has been lost or stolen, prevent someone from ordering a new one in your name by contacting the U.S. State Department’s Passport Services Department.

– The IRS doesn’t contact taxpayers through email, text message or social media. If you get a message from a sender that is identified as the IRS, don’t respond or click on any links. Forward the email to

— Brandpoint

BBB Watch

A new scam of automated calls promising a free medical alert system is hitting consumers. The recorded phone messages come from “Emergency Medical Alert Systems,” “Senior Safety Alert,” “Senior Emergency Care” or “Senior Safe Alert” and tell callers that someone has ordered a free system in their name. Consumers should hang up on all calls of this nature and not press any buttons on their telephones.

— Better Business Bureau

The List

Here are the top five colleges on the new Forbes Top Colleges ranking:

1. Stanford University

2. Pomona College

3. Princeton University

4. Yale University

5. Columbia University

Number to Know

38 percent: According to the 2013 American Time Use Survey by the U.S. Department of Labor, 38 percent of Americans age 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher performed some work at home on days worked compared to 5 percent of those with less than a high school diploma.

Tech Talk

Lady Gaga is extending an important industry trend: the release of an app that enhances the album listeners’ experience. This month’s app for her new album “ARTPOP” will combine music, fashion art and technology within an interactive community. Many are expecting to see an explosion in app/album releases, but others see the app as being an unnatural fit into the world of music releases.

— The Street

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