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  • The consequences can be devastating when your private financial information gets into the wrong hands. Yet there are many ways you can help protect yourself on a daily basis, from taking precautions while online to checking your credit report periodically.

    It is important that you act quickly if you fall victim to identity theft. Contacting the correct agencies and completing the necessary reports will go a long way toward minimising any damage to your financial wellbeing.

    Who to Contact

    Banks: Immediately contact your bank.   Alert them that you are a victim of identity theft, and request that a fraud alert be placed in your file.

    Police: Report identity theft to your local police department. If the crime occurred somewhere other than where you live, you may wish to report it to law enforcement there as well.

    Protect Yourself from ID Theft

    There are some simple steps you can take to reduce or minimise the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.

    Practice Safe Internet Use

    Delete spam emails that ask for personal information, and keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software up-to-date. Shop online only with secure web pages (check the bottom of your browser for an image of a lock or look for “https” in the address bar). Never send credit card numbers, social security numbers and other personal information via email.

    Destroy Private Records

    Tear up or shred credit card statements, ATM, credit, or debit card receipts, bank deposit receipts, and other documents that contain private financial information.

    Secure Your Mail

    Empty your mailbox quickly and get a mailbox lock.

    Check Your Credit Report

    At least once a year, obtain and review your credit report for suspicious activity.

    Beware of Scams

    Always be on the defensive with your private information. Never give out personal information to telemarketers or respond to emails from someone claiming to represent your bank, credit card issuer, a government agency, a charity, or other organisation. If you think the request is legitimate, contact the company directly to confirm their claims.

    Tips for Safe ATM Usage

    Your card and PIN

    • Memorize your PIN – if you must write down your PIN, do not keep it in your wallet, purse or on the card itself.
    • When selecting a PIN, avoid numbers and letters that can be easily identified or associated with you. Do not use your initials, birth date or telephone number
    • In case you lose your card – be sure to know the emergency phone numbers of your financial institution(s).
    • When traveling, it is advisable that you only take one ATM card and memorize the PIN.

    When using an ATM

    • Be alert to your surroundings
    • Look around and observe your surroundings – if the machine is poorly lit, or is in a hidden area, use another ATM
    • Have your card ready – avoid having to go through your wallet, bag or purse to find your card
    • Make sure that anyone waiting to use the ATM after you cannot see the PIN or the transaction amount you are entering.
    • Don’t count your cash while standing at the ATM – put your cash, card and receipt away immediately.
    • Cancel your transaction and leave immediately if you see anything suspicious.
    • Hold on to cards and receipts
    • After completing an ATM or debit transaction, remember to take your card.
    • Do not leave your ATM receipt behind – take it with you. Keep copies of your ATM receipts. Compare your ATM receipts with your monthly statement. It is the best way to guard against unauthorized use of your card, and it makes record keeping easier for you.
    • When your card has become stuck inside an ATM, be suspicious of anyone offering their help. Criminals can obtain your PIN by several means (‘shoulder surfing’ – looking over your shoulder from behind or straightforward questioning), then retrieve your jammed card from the ATM and use it to withdraw funds. Report the incident to the bank immediately either by visiting the branch where the ATM is located or through its telephone hotline

    Guarding Your Personal Data

    Identity fraud is a very specific type of crime where an imposter uses your name and credit records

    Some say that it is impossible to insulate yourself completely against identity fraud, but you can protect yourself by following these tips:

    Do not disclose your identity numbers (TIN, FNPF, etc.) casually. It is prized information for criminals;

    Keep your credit cards and bank account numbers secure. Do not give them out to telemarketers who phone you.