Hi everybody, and happy Monday. Depending on where you live, you might be celebrating Frozen Food Day, Mardi Gras, or If Pets Had Thumbs Day (at least according to an Internet list of “wacky holidays.”) But one thing everybody should be celebrating is our 14th annual National Consumer Protection Week! Running through March 10, this holiday will shine a national spotlight on consumer safety in the U.S.
I thought it would be fun to take a little quiz on identity theft from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: Answer to see what your risk is. I myself scored 45—not bad, but I could do better.
___ I receive several offers of pre-approved credit every week. (5 points)
___ I do not shred the pre-approved credit offers I receive (cross-cut shredder preferred) before putting them in the trash. (5 points)
___ I carry my Social Security card in my wallet. (10 points)
___ I use a computer and do not have up-to-date anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection. (10 points)
___ I do not believe someone would break into my house to steal my personal information. (10 points)
___ I have not ordered a copy of my credit reports for at least 2 years. (20 points)
___ I use an unlocked, open box at work or at my home to drop off my outgoing mail. (10 points)
___ I do not have a P.O. Box or a locked, secured mailbox. (5 points)
___ I carry my military ID in my wallet at all times. (It may display my SSN.) (10 points)
___ I do not shred my banking and credit information, using a cross-cut “confetti” shredder, when I throw it in the trash. (10 points)
___ I throw away old credit and debit cards without shredding or cutting them up. (5 points)
___ I use an ATM machine and do not examine it for signs of tampering. (5 points)
___ I provide my Social Security number (SSN) whenever asked, without asking why it is needed and how it will be safeguarded. (10 points)
___ Add 5 points if you provide it orally without checking to see who might be listening nearby.
___ I respond to unsolicited email messages that appear to be from my bank or credit card company. (10 points)
___ I leave my purse or wallet in my car. (10 points)
___ I have my driver’s license number and/or SSN printed on my personal checks. (10 points)
___ I carry my Medicare card in my wallet at all times. (It displays my SSN.) (10 points)
___ I do not believe that people would root around in my trash looking for credit or financial information or for documents containing my SSN. (10 points)
___ I do not verify that all financial (credit card, debit card, checking) statements are accurate monthly. (10 points)
Ok, now tally up your points. Guess what? Each one of these questions represents a possible avenue for an identity thief. How did you do?
- 100 + points – Recent surveys* indicate that 8-9 million people are victims of ID theft each year. You are at high risk. We recommend you purchase a cross-cut paper shredder, become more security-aware in document handling, and start to question why people need your personal data.
- 50-99 points – Your odds of being victimized are about average.
- 0-49 points – Congratulations. You have a high “IQ.” Keep up the good work and don’t let your guard down now.
Remember, you cannot prevent identity theft. Criminals can commit identity theft relatively easily, but you can reduce your risk of fraud. One of the best things you can do is to check your 3 credit reports at least once a year. If you are a victim of identity theft, you will catch it early by checking your credit reports regularly. Your annual free credit reports are available from (877) 322-8228 or at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Over thirty different agencies are participating in providing great information for consumers this week, including the BBB, so check out National Consumer Protection Week information. Also, sign up for a daily tip from the BBB!