Updated: March 11, 2013 6:30AM
Some Hollywood movies portray identity theft as a comical occurrence. But in real life, being a victim of identity theft can have large financial consequences, according to the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.
The BB says it extremely important to try to deter identity theft from happening, quickly spot it if it has happened, and take the appropriate steps to defend yourself.
“Identity thieves are relentless in their pursuit of private information,” said Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “It is very important to be aware of all the different ways to defend yourself and to keep your identity safe. It is always easier to avoid a problem rather than fix it once it occurs.”
The BBB offers the following tips to keep one’s identity secure:
Carry only the cards you need at the time. Minimize the identification information and the number of cards you carry in your wallet or purse. Do not carry your Social Security card unless you need it.
Cut up old or expired credit cards. Be aware of inactive credit card and bank accounts. Check them periodically for suspicious activity.
Choose your PIN wisely. For your ATM card, choose a Personal Identification Number (PIN) different from your address, telephone number, middle name, the last four digits of your Social Security number, your birth date or any other information that could be easily discovered by thieves.
Be careful about sharing your SSN. Ask why your number is needed, how it will be used and what will happen if you refuse. Leave your Social Security card at home in a secure location.
Place outgoing mail in a secure mailbox. If you do not have a locked mailbox, pick up incoming mail as soon as possible.
Never store your private documents in unsecured locations, such as your car or office. At home, invest in a fireproof lock box or safe to store important documents.
Avoid storing documents that contain personal information you no longer need, including credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, health forms, and other billing statements. Shred all unnecessary documents that contain personal information. Garbage cans are gold mines for identity thieves.
Monitor bank and credit card statements for fraudulent activity. Know what dates your bills arrive. Late or missing bills can indicate your information has been compromised.
Check your credit report annually. Under the Fair & Accurate Credit Transaction Act, consumers are entitled to a free annual credit report. The only authorized source is AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
Visit BBB’s website for more consumer tips at www.bbb.org.