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Protecting Your Personal Information

Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss

Published: 2011-10-22 : (Rev. 2013-03-16)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Information and tips to protect your personal information such as your Social Security number credit card info and telephone number online.

Main Digest

One of the ways criminals take advantage of people is by using their personal information. Some of the ways these criminals do this is by using Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, or telephone card numbers to commit fraud.

ATM machines have made it very convenient for people to use a debit or other bank card to withdraw money from a personal account. The same debit or bank cards make it easy for people to order products over the Internet, perform online banking transactions, purchase gasoline, and shop through any number of websites. Unfortunately - these cards also make it very easy for thieves to steal them and use them for the very same purposes.

Protecting the Personal Identification Number associated with your debit or bank card is vital.

Never write it down; do not give this number to other people, or allow anyone else to enter it into an ATM machine for you. When you use an ATM machine, make sure the ATM is in a brightly-lit, populated area. Never let anyone else use your debit or bank card. Make sure you go over your bank statements every single month. If there is a charge on your debit or bank card that you did not make, call your bank at once. If you lose your debit or bank card report it immediately to your bank or the police department.

There are a great many places that require people to use a password in order to access services.

Places like credit card companies, insurance companies, and web sites demand that you use passwords to protect your information.

It is important that you choose a password you can remember without having to write it down, yet one that is not easy for someone else to guess, such as the name of a pet, a relative, or your address. The best passwords are ones that have a mixture of upper and lowercase letters mixed with numbers. Avoid giving your passwords to anyone, or saving them on your computer or through places that are online.

Shopping on the Internet can save you time, bother, as well as money. It also means you have to give out your personal information; something that other people can use for fraudulent reasons. When you shop online, try to do business with large companies you know of and have a level of trust in. If you have never heard of a company before, take the time to research it, or ask the company for a copy of their paper catalog before you purchase anything from them over the Internet.

Examine the products or services a company is offering you to make sure you understand:

If a company doesn't use software designed to protect your information - order the product you want over the phone or through a fax message instead. Never give a company more information than is absolutely necessary in order to make the purchase, such as your date of birth or Social Security number.

Scammers and Con Artists

A con artist might approach you online through a false web site or an email message, through regular mail, on the telephone, through advertising in a publication or on television, or in person. It is easy for a criminal to make offers look as if they are real or legitimate. Even the smartest of people have been fooled by con artists. The old rule is still true, "If it looks or sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

If it was easy to make money, everyone would be rich - don't fall for, 'Get Rich Quick,' scams. Quick Fixes and Miracles Cures fall into the same category and are sure ways for you to lose your money. Con artists love these kinds of scams.

Don't ever feel pressured to make an immediate decision - take your time no matter what another person is saying. Con artists, and even some companies that are legitimate, do their best to try to pressure people into spending their money Right NOW! The reason they do this is because the more you learn about their offer or product, the less you will be interested in it. Legitimate offers are there for you over a longer period of time, or will be offered again. Your money is just that - yours; use it when and how you want to.

Paying with cash or a check is a bad idea.

Once your cash leaves your hand, or a check has been cashed, it is almost impossible to get your money back. Debit, bank, or credit cards can be a form of defense against fraud. If you pay for something you have purchased and you never receive it, if you are charged too much, or if you are charged illegally for something, a bank or a credit card company many times will help to investigate the company and return your money. It is always your job to make smart decisions where purchases are concerned, as well as to protect your card from information fraud. It is also your responsibility to contact your bank or credit card company if you have experienced fraud.

Make sure to read the fine print related to the purchases you make.

Also, don't be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to about the item being offered. If the item is being offered through mail or online, read all of the clauses and exceptions included with it. If the item is being offered over the phone, be sure to ask the company to send you the offer in writing; this is a real easy way to rid yourself of telemarketers, by the way.

Take the time to research companies and people, questioning anything that just seems too good to be true.

Check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if a company is legal, or if they have any claims filed against them or if they have committed fraud or unfair practices. You might want to check out a company with your police department if they seem really fishy. Ask anyone who approaches you in person for identification and printed materials about their company and the items they are offering you. Remember that printed items and identification can be faked, so take these with a grain of salt - you might want to check them out with the police department.

Do not hesitate for one instant to report fraud to your local police department, your bank, or your credit card company.

Tell your city or state consumer protection office, as well as the Better Business Bureau. It is your right to be as informed about a product or service as possible before you spend a dime of your money. You should feel comfortable about making the decision to spend money. Keep your personal information safe.

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