Preventing Identity Theft

by Michelle Dunn

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Hidden Identity Theft Risks

Identity theft can happen anytime, anywhere and to anyone, individuals or businesses. Everyone must be educated and aware so it can be avoided. Most identity theft involves the U.S. Mail, which is why the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is a lead agency in investigating identity theft. Identity theft is a criminal offense.

How can I prevent Identity theft from happening to me?

Never leave your receipt or slip in the ATM or gas pump. Pay attention to your habits, lock up or organize and file your bills, and bank statements. Shred them using a cross shredder before throwing them away.

In a recent article in MSN Money, their research showed that 32% of people said they had been a victim of identity fraud by a friend or family, and 13% were victimized by a co-worker. Beware! These people know your patterns and habits.

Some steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of Identity theft are:

  • Get a copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus. (FREE as of 9/1/05!)
  • Opt out of mailing lists by contacting the credit bureaus above. Opt out by reading the privacy notice that comes with your credit card and following the instructions.
  • Call the national Do Not Call Registry at 1-888-382-1222 or visit Be sure to call from the number you want to register
  • Do not carry your social security Card in your wallet.
  • Do not print your social security number on your checks.
  • Do not get your social security number printed on your drivers' license.
  • Do not carry your Medicaid card with you, as Medicaid numbers are your Social security number.
  • Delete any emails from Nigeria, or lottery or prize notifications before opening.
  • Stop credit card offers 888-5-OPT-OUT.
  • Remove your name from national mailing lists by visiting or write to:

    Mail Preference Service
    PO Box 643
    Carmel, NY 10512
  • Install firewall and virus protection software on your computer.
  • Password protect your computer and private personal files.
  • Format your hard drive or physically destroy when disposing of your old computer.
  • When you order new checks, get your first initial printed on them instead of your first name.
  • Use a cross shredder to shred your bills and bank statements or any junk mail
  • Bring your mail to the post office or secure mailbox rather than leaving it in a rural box.
  • Use only one designated credit card for online purchases.
  • Be sure all online purchases are made through a secure server. Notice the "lock" icon and how the URL address changes from http to https. The S means SECURE.
  • Do not carry your PIN number in your wallet.
  • Do not use your date of birth as a password or PIN.
  • Do not give out personal or financial information over the phone.
  • Grind up or shred back up CDs you are throwing away.
  • Check your online banking account at least three times a week and change your password often.
  • If you feel you have been a victim of identity fraud, contact the Department of Justice, consumer protection division. They offer mediation with identity theft; they also have a hot line for consumers that is available 8-5 Monday through Friday. They maintain a database of written complaints that goes back to 1998. They offer seminars to school, seniors or your group.
  • Be aware that 40 million crooks obtained credit card numbers this past year, so "Be Suspicious." Also be aware that most identify theft is not reported, especially when it involves family members, so the statistics are off. These statistics show that consumers lost $5 billion last year when in actuality it is closer to $50 billion. There have been an estimated 9.9 million victims in America.

Michelle Dunn has over 17 years experience in credit and debt collection. She is the founder of Never Dunn Publishing, LLC, is a writer, consultant and the Editorial Advisor for Eli Financial Debt Collection Compliance Alert Newsletter. Michelle started M.A.D. Collection Agency and ran it successfully for 7 years. She owns and runs Credit &, a free online community for credit and business professionals.

She has written 5 books in her Collecting Money Series. For more information on Michelle's services or to order any of her books, please email her at or visit and

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