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Identity theft: An ounce of prevention buys peace of mind

Tuesday, March 07, 2000

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

To protect yourself against identity theft, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service recommends you:

Promptly remove mail from your box after delivery.

Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Don't leave it in unsecured receptacles.

Unless you initiate the call, never give personal information (such as Social Security number or mother's maiden name) over the phone.

Shred pre-approved credit applications, credit-card receipts, bills and other financial information before discarding.

Empty your wallet of extra cards and identification. Also, cancel cards you don't use and keep a list of the ones you do.

Order your credit report from three credit bureaus once a year to check for fraudulent activity or discrepancies. The bureaus are: Equifax, 800-997-2493; Experian Information Solutions (formerly TRW), 888-397-3742; and TransUnion, 800-916-8800. Call from a touch-tone phone, and have a pen ready.

Never leave receipts at bank machines or counters, trash receptacles or unattended gas pumps.

Memorize your Social Security number and passwords. Don't carry them in your wallet.

Immediately sign new credit cards.

Save credit card receipts and match against your monthly bill.

Be mindful of when routine financial statements arrive. If they don't come, contact the sender.

Notify credit-card companies and financial institutions in advance of change of address or phone number.

Never loan your credit cards to anyone.

Never put your credit card or other financial account numbers on a postcard or outside an envelope.

If you apply for a new credit card and it doesn't arrive in timely fashion, contact the bank or company.

Report all lost or stolen credit cards immediately.

Watch expiration dates on your cards. If replacements don't arrive before expiration, contact the issuer.

Beware of mail or phone solicitations disguised as promotions, offering instant prizes or awards, designed solely to obtain your personal information or credit-card numbers.

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