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Brookhaven College employee newsletter: Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Six Tips to Help Protect your Identity

Six Tips to Help Protect your Identity

By Mike Deason, director of information technology, information privacy and security officer

In the early 80s I had the privilege of meeting Frank Abagnale, author of the book "Catch Me if you Can" which was later made into a movie. One thing Frank said was "There's no such thing as a foolproof system. That idea fails to take into account the creativity of fools!" Even 30 years later there are even more scams and cons being produced by creative fools.

Here are some six tips to help you to avoid the scams and cons that could damage your

1. Don't carry your social security card with you.

If you are going to a government office or financial institution, there is a good chance you will not need your Social Security card with you. You do not need to give out your social security number every time someone asks for it - most of the time, it's just a convenient but unnecessary way to verify your identity. Ask if you can provide some other ID instead, or find out what they'll do with your number.

2. Surf with care.

Identity theft online is now easier than ever. This is due to people publicly sharing their information on social networks. Don't click on a link or file if you don't know where it came from.

3. Don't use simple passwords.

Many people use the same password for everything, while others make the password too simple. Use passwords that are a mix of letters and non-consecutive numbers to achieve the best protection. (For example: "My Dog Rover Has 59 flees!" The password would be MDRH59F!) Avoid using a universal login. The reason is if one password gets hacked or simply guessed, you won't risk everything.

4. Get a credit freeze.

A better method for protecting your credit is with a credit freeze. This restricts new credit from being created by anyone, including you. If you need to access your credit (refinance, mortgage, etc.) you will have to unfreeze it. This process of unfreezing your credit may take several days, but no new credit cards or loans can be established in your name. Each state has their own cost and policy. See http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/learn_more/003484indiv.html for more information about each state. This won't block your file from people who already have access to it - just new requesters.

5. Buy a good shredder.

Shred those junk mail offers and then opt-out of junk mail. It's common for identity thieves to dig through trash looking for information. You can opt-out of junk mail by going to https://www.optoutprescreen.com or by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) to have your name removed from direct marketing lists.

6. Actually read your credit card bills and bank statements.

Many people throw their credit card statement and bills out just as if it were junk mail. Taking the time to look at the charges to your accounts could tip you off to ID theft and minimize the damage. Read your statements carefully. Better yet, don't wait for statements. Check your accounts regularly online-make it a habit.