Identity theft has been the top consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission for the past 12 years in a row, according to protectyouridentity.org. In order to avoid the threat of identity theft, identity protection must be attained through credit precautions and concealing personal information.
The 2013 National Protect Your Identity Week is Oct. 21-26. This year, contacting Partnership’s Consumer Credit Counseling program can be the first step to gaining protection and information. Chattanooga’s CCC program offers services including budget counseling, credit counseling, debt and money management and overall financial information. These services are meant to help one protect and stabilize finances while providing the necessary guidance and tips to keep one's credit and expenses in control. Partnership’s counseling sessions are free of charge and are led by supportive professionals. To ensure one's safety, the program offers these tips for preventing identity theft:
1. Check Your Credit Report
Checking your credit report on a regular basis helps to monitor any abnormal expenses that may have been obtained with your name. This includes debts, credit cards and loans.
2. Add a Fraud Alert
Adding a Fraud Alert requires confirmation from you before any credit application is accepted. Fraud alerts are free and necessary in order to prevent someone else from obtaining a credit card under your name.
3. Practice Safe Spending Habits
Try using your credit card more frequently to ensure the kind of protection that a debit card does not offer. Be sure to be careful when entering personal payment information online and be in control of your overall spending.
4. Manage Sensitive Information
It is important to shred documents containing any kind of personal information (account numbers, date of birth, social security number, etc.) It is just as important to maintain your online privacy. Keep in control of your online identity by setting privacy features on any social networking sites and including minimal personal information. Any personal facts could be linked to bank or email accounts.
5. Double Check Bank and Credit Card Statements
Read your statements thoroughly to ensure that no abnormal charges have been made to your accounts. Even the smallest charges that are unfamiliar could be the start to identity theft. Take precautions immediately and call your credit card company if you notice any unauthorized charges.