Don?t Become An Identity Fraud Statistic!

"You've just won a fabulous vacation or prize package! Now, if you'll kindly give me your credit card information and social security number for verification purposes, you will receive this awesome gift!"

Now why would they need my credit card or social security number to send me a freebie? Can you say, "identity theft?"

Although there are legitimate reasons for people to need that information, such as a purchase or job application, thieves need it to steal your life and money from you!

Crime officials are reporting that this kind of theft is becoming quite common. Don't be a victim! Follow a few common-sense suggestions to avoid finding out someone else has taken over your life-along with your bank account!

-Do not allow anyone to borrow your credit cards! Your best friend may be trustworthy, but her boyfriend may not be!

-Don't provide personal information such as date of birth, credit card numbers, your pin number, mom's maiden name, or social security number over the telephone unless you initiate the call. Don't leave mail lying around for strangers to pry into. How well do you really know your teen's friends?

-Destroy all bills, pre-approved credit card applications, credit card receipts, and other financial information when you no longer need such items.

-Don't keep private information like pin numbers and such in your purse or wallet. It's just too risky. We humans are much too forgetful. Be honest, how many times have YOU had to return to a restaurant or friend's home to retrieve your purse? Is there anything in there that could harm you if it was stolen or lost? Time to check.

-Check your credit reports regularly. To order your report, call the three major credit bureaus at these toll-free numbers: Equifax at (800) 685-1111, Experian at (888) 397-3742, or Trans Union at (800) 888-4213. By law, the most you can be charged for a copy of your report is $8.50. To be safe, consider getting a copy from each of the three companies. If after reviewing your report you spot signs of a possible fraud, report it immediately!

-Keep your passwords and pins confidential and secure. Avoid passwords and pin numbers that will be easy for a thief to figure out. For example, don't use your name, street address or birth date. Also, change your passwords every once in awhile, just to be safe.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. Report suspected Internet-based fraud to the Federal Trade Commission or the IFCC (www.ifccfbi.gov/Default.asp), a new joint project of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime.

Kristi Sayles, author of too many publications to list here, invites everyone to subscribe to her Internet Treasures Newsletter. Freebies, advice, information, humor and other treasures from the Internet are included. It's free! http://smartauthor.com/treasures.html

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