We at the PRC wish you a happy, prosperous and private new year. For 2007, resolve to do what you can to guard against identity theft and stop unwanted intrusions via your mailbox, telephone, or fax machine. When it comes to privacy, there are no guarantees. But the following resolutions are a good way to start off the new year.
- Check your credit reports. You are entitled to a free report from all three national credit bureaus once every 12 months. If you ordered your reports in 2006, mark your calendar for the appropriate month in 2007. For more information, see the Federal Trade Commission's Facts for Consumers at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/freereports.htm.
- Review credit card and bank account statements frequently. Online access to your accounts means you don’t have to wait for the statements to come in the mail. If you do access your accounts online, be sure to use your home computer rather than one open to public access such as found at Internet cafes.
- Check your Social Security Earnings Statement for any signs of fraud. You should receive one from the Social Security Administration every year about 3 months before your birthday. Look for earnings that exceed the amount you earned. It could be a sign that someone is using your SSN for employment. If you did not receive an earnings statement in 2006, contact the Social Security Administration to request one. You may do this online at www.ssa.gov/online/ssa-7004.html .
- Never respond to unsolicited e-mails or telephone calls that ask for your Social Security number, account numbers or other personal information.
- Do shred all documents that contain personal information. Use a cross-cut shredder.
- Sign up for the National Do-Not-Call List to limit unwanted telephone solicitations. (888) 382-1222 or www.donotcall.gov
- Stop pre-approved credit and insurance offers. (888) 5-OPT-OUT / (888) 567-8688, or opt out online at www.optoutprescreen.com.
- Review privacy notices from your bank or other financial institution and take a few minutes to opt-out.
- Be a “squeaky wheel.” If you receive unwanted faxes, complain to the Federal Communications Commission (www.fcc.gov). If you receive unwanted telemarketing calls or if pre-recorded sales calls are left on your answering machine, complain to the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov)
- Check your computer and make sure you’ve installed the latest firewalls.
- Open all mail, especially envelopes that include only a P.O. Box as a return address. Credit card companies that send you replacement cards or convenience checks may try to disguise the mailing by including only a limited return address.
For more tips on preserving your privacy and protecting your identity in 2007: