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Janice France-Pettit: Tips to help prevent identity theft

Posted: April 16, 2010 7:00 p.m.
Updated: April 17, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
Identity theft is a crime, and if you are a victim, your credit score could be negatively affected.

Protecting yourself against possible identity theft is not only smart, but is more affordable and more easily accessible, as many financial institutions now offer low rates on additional identity protection plans to help make it attainable for everyone.

Now may be a good time for you to establish or review security procedures at home and at work to help protect yourself or your business from identity theft.

A few tips to consider:

Personal security
Some of the most common objects thieves target are the items people carry with them, such as credit cards or checkbooks.

Only carry essential items in your purse or wallet, and leave your Social Security card at home or in a secure place.

Always be aware of your surroundings and keep your personal items close when you are in public places, such as restaurants or shopping centers.

At home and at work, it is suggested that you secure cabinets and storage areas containing confidential information such as Social

Security numbers, credit card numbers or any other information that can be stolen to gain another's identity.

Take important mail directly to the post office rather than leave it sitting in a mailbox where thieves can easily obtain your personal information.

Keep track of your monthly banking, insurance and credit card statements to see if there are any questionable charges. Review your credit report at least on an annual basis to identify any unusual information.

Electronic security
Identify any potential weaknesses in your computer system. Regularly conduct updates to anti-virus and anti-spyware programs to all of your computer systems.

It is also important to have a firewall in place to prevent access to your computer system and to require your family and/or staff to use (and frequently update) passwords that include a combination of letters, numbers and characters.

If necessary, seek a trusted independent expert to audit your system. When sending or receiving confidential data on a computer, it is important to use a secure connection.

You may also want to ask a professional to encrypt your wireless Internet system to block outsiders from potentially stealing your information.

Before purchasing items online, read the company's privacy policy to guarantee your transaction will be protected. In general, try to refrain from giving personal information, such as Social Security or credit card numbers, over the Internet - you never know who might have access or try to steal your information.

Another commonplace identity theft occurs is on social-networking sites. Never reveal your full date of birth on these sites, because it can be used to access your personal information. Utilize the privacy settings on the sites to better protect yourself from thieves.

Information disposal
Implement procedures, such as thorough cross-cut shredding, to dispose of sensitive documents to prevent access to personal information by those rummaging through dumpsters and recycling bins. Consider using "wipe utility programs" when throwing away older computers and memory devices.

With so many methods of accessing private information in today's world, take time to ensure that your family, home and business are protected against identity theft to help avoid becoming a victim of this crime.

The foregoing article is intended to provide general information about foreign-exchange strategies and is not considered financial or foreign-exchange advice from Union Bank. Please consult your financial or foreign-exchange adviser.

Janice France-Pettit is a senior vice president and regional manager for Union Bank, overseeing the Simi Valley, San Fernando Valley and Antelope Valley regions. Her column reflects her own opinion and not necessarily that of The Signal.

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