JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Identity theft comes with a hefty price tag. Last year it cost Americans $54 billion. Although safe guarding your information is easy many of us neglect to do it.
"You think oh that would never really protect me, but in reality those are the most effective tools to protect against identity theft," said Director of the Consumer Protection Division of the Mississippi Attorney General's office Meredith Aldridge. She suggested starting with the mail.
Your mailbox is a gold mine for thieves looking for your personal information. How do you know what needs to be shredded or just trashed? Any paper containing personal information like your social security number, account numbers, even receipts need to be shredded.
What about those pre-approved credit card solicitations? They may not state any of your personal information, still they are useful for identity thieves.
"If someone else has been going through your mail they may be able to obtain that, complete an application and eventually change the address where you would not realize someone had applied for credit in your name," said Aldridge.
Aldridge said cut up old credit cards in as many pieces as you can. Then place the pieces in separate garbage bags to be taken out on different trash days.
"Sounds like a lot of work. But I tell you, you will be glad that you did that when someone is not able to put those credit cards back together," said Aldridge.
It is Chris Burford's job at Consumer Credit Counseling Service to help people keep their money safe. In this high tech age thieves are using the Internet to snare victims. Ask questions, be skeptical.
"What they are asking for? Does it make sense when you're doing business?" asked Burford.
Maybe one of the most important tips is monitor your credit report. "See if there is any information, I'll give you an example, like new loans, credit cards, any information that just doesn't look right" said Burford.
There are legitimate businesses that can manage it for you, but you really don't need to spend the money. The Attorney General recommends Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion that will give you your credit report once a year absolutely free.
For more information go to http://www.ago.state.ms.us/index.php/sections/consumer/identity_theft
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