Learn how to protect yourself against identity theft


By the numbers

15 million. How many U.S. residents have their identities stolen each year.
$50 billion. How much money is lost every year due to identity theft.
17 percent. Credit card fraud in 2013.
14 percent. Phone or utilities fraud in 2013.
8 percent. Bank fraud in 2013.
No. 1. Where identity theft ranks among all fraud complaints.

Randy Esteve and Kristie Saucier are leading a free program that will teach you how to protect yourself against identity theft. It’s at 5 p.m. July 21 at the Terrebonne Parish Main Library, 151 Library Drive, Houma.

Officials say identity theft can take many forms, from sophisticated phishing and vishing scams and hacking into corporate and government databases to simpler methods like stealing wallets and mail.

Esteve, manager of the Capital One branch on West Tunnel Boulevard in Houma, said the most common form of identity theft is accomplished in Houma-Thibodaux when unsolicited callers ask for your Social Security number or bank account information.

“They act like they’re some kind of agent, and they are not,” the 55-year-old Thibodaux resident said. The rouse most often tricks the elderly, who believe the caller’s story.

Most identity theft occurs offline, according to a 2009 Javelin Strategy and Research study, and 43 percent of all identity thefts are committed by someone the victim knows.

“Most people don’t realize they are victims of identity theft until they go buy something or borrow money from a bank,” Esteve said. “They get declined, and they don’t know why.”

Here are some tips from USA.gov and National Crime Prevention Council that could help protect you from identity theft:

n Keep your Social Security card at home. Don’t carry it in your wallet or write it on checks. Only give it out when it is absolutely necessary.

n Protect your PIN. Never write it on a credit or debit card. Also, don’t write it on a piece of paper. In addition, shield the keypad when using pay phones and ATMs, so others can’t see you punch in your PIN.

n Tell your children never to give out their address, telephone number, password, school name or any other personal information.

n Pick up your mail in a timely manner. You can put your mail on hold if you know you are not going to be home by filing a request at your local post office.

n Keep receipts. Compare receipts with account statements, and watch for unauthorized transactions. Shred unwanted receipts, credit offers, account statements and expired cards.

Esteve said it’s always better to shred or tear junk mail into tiny pieces, especially if it’s for pre-approved credit cards, loans and checks.

— Store personal information in a safe place at home and work.

— Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for personal information in the mail, over the phone or online.

— Install firewalls and virus-protection software on your computer.

— Check your credit report annually.

“The most important thing is to protect your credit score,” Esteve said. “Once your credit score is messed up, it’s a headache to get straightened out and corrected.”

— Be weary of websites that offer prizes or giveaways.

“We have people that have given away a lot of money waiting for that lottery check to come in,” Esteve added.

Article source: http://www.dailycomet.com/article/20140714/ARTICLES/140719787?Title=Learn-how-to-protect-yourself-against-identity-theft

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