Useful tips to help prevent identity theft

Identity theft prevention

New scams and frauds emerge daily online, through the mail and even over the phone. They all want to steal your money and even your identity. But who is most likely to steal your identity?

It's surprising to find out who often commits identity theft. But there are simple steps you can take to prevent it from happening to you.

It doesn't happen the most online. It doesn't happen the most over the phone. Identity theft most often occurs through someone you know: a friend, a coworker, or even a family member.

"Most people don't realize that over 50% of consumers that are victims of identity theft are victimized by people they know," said Carmen Million, president of the local Better Business Bureau. "It's very important that the message get out that consumers need to protect their own identity by properly shredding their personal financial information."

Shredding is a common way to dispose of important records, documents or information, but vertical shredding won't cut it. Cross shredding is the only way to ensure the information cannot be placed back together, because all it takes is one number to wipe out your entire bank account.

"If somebody gets your bank account number, they can remove everything out of your account without your authorization," said Million. "All they need is your bank account number."

Shredding isn't the only way to prevent identity theft. The Calcasieu Parish incinerator located near the Public Works Office on Broad Street is open for both residents and businesses to dispose of information properly. Businesses are charged five dollars a box, but residents can use it at no cost.

"They would go to the incinerator and get with the attendant there," said Public Works Director Mister Edwards. "Normally he will place it in the fire before you ever leave. That's what we ask him to do, make sure it's placed there before the residents or the businesses leave for that time."

In recent years identity theft has decreased. Million says that's most likely because people are more aware of how to protect themselves. But some people can't, like newborns, who are now the number one victims of identity theft.

"An identity thief can actually get that information, ruin their credit and they won't even know it until they go to make their first purchase or they go to school," said Million.

There are many other steps you can take to prevent identity theft from happening to you. Cut up expired credit and debit cards. Put your personal documents in a secure location at home. Minimize the personal information you put on checks. Don't use obvious passwords. Always use your own computer when conducting business online. Also, check your credit report at least once a year.

The Better Business Bureau is holding a 'Secure Your ID' day on April 28 in efforts to fight identity theft.

The 'Shred Fest' will allow residents to bring boxes of documents to be shredded free of charge. It will be in the Prien Lake Mall parking lot behind Pier 1. It will run from 9 a.m. to noon.

It's also important to know how long to keep certain documents. Bank statements should be kept for around three years. Contracts, mortgages, notes and leases should be kept for seven years as well as any financial statements. Retirement, pension records and tax return documents should be kept permanently.

Even local law enforcement officers were being trained on how to deal with identity theft. LifeLock is hosting a two day training seminar on April 16-17 for local and regional officers.

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved.