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What are some ways to prevent identity theft?

Some good tips include:

• If you lose your credit card, report it to the credit card company as soon as possible.

• Make sure your credit card information and any passwords for online sites are kept in a secure place.

• Never provide personal information over the phone or online unless you trust the business one hundred percent.

• Monitor your credit card reports closely to make sure there are no charges you did not authorize. If there are, contact your credit card company promptly.

• Do not put your social security number or other important personal information, such as a birth date or mother's maiden name, on checks, postcards, or envelopes.

• Use passwords that are not easy to guess and do not include your birth date, social security number, personal name, etc.

• Do not respond to emails allegedly from your bank, credit card company, or PayPal that ask you for your credit card information. They are almost always fraudulent.

• Install firewalls, anti-virus, and anti-spyware on your computer and keep these programs updated.

• Do not click on links on unsolicited emails.

• Although in some states it is illegal to print full credit card numbers on receipts, some businesses still do this. Always keep these receipts and destroy them when you no longer need them.

• Much identity theft is low-tech. Information can be stolen from mail boxes, so always pick up your mail as soon as possible, rather than leaving it in your mailbox. And don't leave your mail for pick up.

• Order a free copy of your credit report to check for anything unusual or unexpected. To order your free annual report from one or all the national consumer reporting companies, visit annualcreditreport.com, call toll-free 877-3228228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

• Reduce the amount of unsolicited mail you receive by calling 1-888-5OPT-OUT. To receive less national advertising mail, you can pay one dollar to register for the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service. They can be reached at dmachoice.org, or P.O. Box 282, Carmel, NY 10512.

What is phishing?

Phishing refers to the fraudulent activity of sending an e-mail under false pretenses with the goal of obtaining bank account or credit card information from an unsuspecting consumer. The e-mails often falsely claim to be a financial institution, like your personal bank, but are really identity thieves in disguise. They ask for personally identifiable information that they would then use for nefarious purposes. The e-mails usually contain a link to a website. If the consumer clicks on the link in the e-mail, it takes them to a screen and asks for log-in information in the form of account numbers and passwords. Do not even open these e-mails and by all means do not provide account number information.

Some states have passed laws defining and prohibiting phishing. For example, Arkansas law defines phishing as "the use of electronic mail or other means to imitate

Computer hackers are people who try to gain access to personal or corporate information electronically for fraudulent purposes (iStock).

Computer hackers are people who try to gain access to personal or corporate information electronically for fraudulent purposes (iStock).

a legitimate company or business in order to entice the user into divulging passwords, credit card numbers, or other sensitive information for the purpose of committing theft or fraud."

How does the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) help consumers fight identity theft?

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) helps consumers fight identity theft by allowing them to issue a one-call fraud alert to one of the three major credit reporting agencies. If one of the agencies receives such a fraud alert, it must then notify the other two major reporting agencies. This puts these agencies on notice that someone may be illegally accessing another person's credit.

 
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