Friday, April 25, 2003
Carlisle police urge care with personal information
Recent news events have brought to light how easy it is for unscrupulous hackers to steal our identities and ruin our financial lives. In 2002, federal authorities cracked a ring responsible for the largest case of identity theft in U.S. history.
With a few keystrokes, 30,000 people's identities, bank accounts and credit profiles were savaged last year when a software company employee stole access codes and passwords for 30,000 people whose bank accounts were drained, while credit card accounts were opened, used to buy merchandise and establish lines of credit. Officials say the losses exceeded 2.7 million dollars in that one case alone. People are left on their own to straighten out their affairs and restore their financial standing within the community.
What can the average consumer do? The truth is, you cannot prevent identity theft from occurring, but here's what you can do to minimize your change of becoming a victim.
· Check your credit reports once a year from all three of the credit reporting agencies: TransUnion (1-800-888-4213, www.transunion.com), Experian (1-888-397-3742, www.experian.com) and Equifax (1-800-685-1111, www.equifax.com).
· Do not put your social security number of driver's license number on your checks.
· Watch for people who seem to be eavesdropping on information you give out orally.
· Place passwords on your credit cards, bank and phone accounts.
· Secure personal information in your house, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having service work done at your home.
· Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office rather than in an unsecured mailbox.
· Try not to store financial information on your laptop computer. If you do, use a strong password · a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Don't use the automatic log in feature that saves your user name and password so you don't have to enter them each time you log in or visit a web site. That way, if your laptop is stolen, it's harder for the thief to access your personal information.
· "Knowledge is Power." When it comes to preventing identity theft, the only way to maintain power over your financial information is by limiting other people's knowledge of and access to it.
© 2003 The