From The Rockaway Postmaster’s Desk
Identity theft is the number one consumer fraud in the nation. Millions of dollars were stolen last year from victims and their financial institutions nationwide. Criminals use a variety of tactics to 'pick' your identity and 'pocket' your finances. Some of them "dumpster dive" in trash bins for unshredded credit applications, canceled checks or other bank re-cords. Others "shoulder surf" at the ATM or phone booth to get your pin code.
Do you carry your Social Security number (SSN) in your wallet? It's the gateway to your medical, financial, credit and educational records. You can cancel your credit card and "stop" a check, but if identity thieves get your SSN, they may open new accounts or lines of credit - under your name for their use. U.S. Postal Inspectors, charged with protecting the nation's mail system from criminal misuse, recommend the following guidelines:
• Give your outgoing mail to your letter carrier or deposit it at the Post Office; promptly remove mail from your mail-box after delivery.
• Shred or tear up unneeded documents that contain personal information before dis-carding them.
• Order credit reports every year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies and thoroughly review them for accuracy.
• Never give personal or finan-cial information over the telephone or the Internet unless you initiated the contact and trust them.
• Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately.
• If you applied for a credit card and didn't receive it when expected, call the financial institution.
• Sign new credit cards immediately, before someone else does.
• Memorize your Social Security number and passwords. Don't use your date of birth as your password and don't record them on papers you carry with you.
• Never leave transaction receipts at ATM machines, on counters at financial institutions, or at gasoline pumps.
• Don't carry your Social Security card or birth certificate; leave them in a secure location.
• Don't disclose credit
card or other financial account numbers on a website unless the site offers a secure transac-tion.
• Closely monitor the expiration dates on your credit cards and contact
the issuer if you don't receive a replacement prior to the expiration date.
• Beware of mail or tele phone solicitations that ask you for personal
information or financial account numbers.
• Match your credit card re-ceipts against your monthly bills and check your monthly financial statements for ac-curacy.
• Watch for your monthly financial statements and bills. If you don't get them when expected, contact the sender.
• If the crime involved the mail, report it to your nearest U.S. Postal Inspection Service office or call 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777). To report identity theft online, go to the Federal Trade Commission's website at www. ftc.gov.
By George P. Buonocore