Tips for keeping your information safe, courtesy of the LA County Sheriff’s Department.
This Saturday, the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s station will join our city to put on a community shred and e-waste event.
While the e-waste collection benefits the environment, the free shredding of documents will help keep your personal information out of the hands of criminals.
The event will be held July 26th from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 at the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station on Magic Mountain Parkway.
A limit of 5 boxes of paper will be shredded per car.
Of course, the event is bringing much needed attention to the fact that identity theft is an issue that requires daily consideration.
According to Sheriff’s officials, last year 8.4 million people in the U.S. fell victim to identity theft schemes. The resulting loss of over $49 billion makes this problem a massive one.
The good news: protecting yourself is easy. Just use these tips provided by the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station.
Anything with an account number, signature, social security number or any personal information can be used against you, and since most people throw this stuff in the trash, it's readily available for dumpster-diving thieves. Shredding your bills, ATM and credit card receipts, pay stubs, back statements and anything else with confidential info is a much safer alternative.
Watch Your Back
While many identity thefts take place anonymously via the Internet and the phone, sometimes the crimes are committed by people standing right behind you. Whenever you're entering private information, such as account or PIN numbers, make sure that nobody else is watching.
Keep Track Of Your Doccuments
Unless you absolutely have to, don't walk around in public with your social security card, passport, birth certificate, or extra bank cards. You'll rarely need them, and you can be in big trouble if they get lost. On that note, if you lose your wallet or even a single bank card, make sure to cancel it immediately, even if you think you'll find it soon.
Check Your Statements, Bills and Credit Reports
Whenever you receive a bill or bank statement in the mail, check it in a timely fashion for any bizarre charges or activity. If you see charges you never made, it's possible that someone got a hold of more than just your credit card number. If you see anything, report it immediately to prevent any further harm. Also, get a yearly credit report to see if there's anything amiss, which can be done for free at sites like annualcreditreport.com.
Protect Your Mail
Stolen mail is one of the easiest ways a thief can find and use your identity. If you can, purchase a lockable mailbox or a mail slot for your door. When sending mail, put it in a secure U.S. Post Office collection bin rather than leave it in your mailbox. If you're going to be away, even for short periods of time, have your mail held at the post office. Finally, put as little personal info – as in, never account or social security numbers – on the outside of envelopes.
Protect Your Computer
Regularly updating your computer's spyware and virus protection software can prevent criminals from gaining access to accounts and credit cards, so keep your safeguards current. Also, make sure you know who you're dealing with online – buy products and download files only from trusted sites and beware of phishing scams.
Avoid Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers
Credit card offers that you receive in the mail are an easy way for scammers to set up accounts in your name. Rather than throwing them away in the trash, shred or destroy them to make sure nobody can get to them. Then, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends you call 1-888-5-OPTOUT or visit www.optoutprescreen.com to take you off the lists for receiving pre-approved credit and insurance offers from the major companies.
Protect Your Checks
Keep your checks as secure as possible, given that the information regularly printed on them – name, address, and bank account number – can pretty much give the keys to your life to any common ID thief. Don't print your driver's license, social security, or credit card numbers on the checks themselves, and shred any canceled checks with vital information on them. Another option is to have your first initial instead of your full first name printed on the check, so even if a thief gets a hold of one, he or she won't have your full name. Finally, when ordering new checks, pick them up from your bank instead of getting them mailed to you.
Avoid Online Scams
Unsolicited emails offering lottery winnings or safe investment strategies are more likely scams than legitimate business transactions. Foreign companies will not use an email to request local residents’ assistance with transferring millions of dollars in assets with an incentive of a large commission. Ignore such offers as they are scams designed to steal your money and/or your identity.