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National Consumer Protection Week: How Secure is Your Identity?

National Consumer Protection Week 2011This week is National Consumer Protection Week, and we’re helping bring awareness to the important issue of protecting consumers’ information.

While consumer protection encompasses things such as avoiding rip-offs and exercising your consumer rights, I’d like to focus on one important consumer protection topic: identity theft.

Every year, millions of people fall victim to identity theft. The good news: it looks like the number of identity theft cases is dropping compared to previous years. The bad news: it appears victims are paying more than ever.

According to a recent survey, the number of identity theft cases dropped 28% in 2010, totaling 8.1 million, and the chances of falling victim dropped to 3.5% (from 4.8% in 2009). I think this is because consumers are generally getting smarter.

Despite the drop, those who fell victim faced greater consequences: the average out-of-pocket loss rose 63%, from $387 to $631 per incident.

Identity thieves employ a variety of means to obtain your information and subsequently steal your identities, but I’d like to touch on two in particular, two that you can immediately guard against: rummaging through trash and stealing mail.

When identity thieves rummage through trash and mail, they essentially look for anything that contains your personal information, including bills, bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks and tax information. The solution: don’t make these things available to them.

Here are a few tips to help safeguard your mail and trash:

  1. Opt out of receiving pre-screened credit offers in the mail. Identity thieves may find it difficult to sign up for credit cards when they don’t find any in the mail. For more information on opting out, visit FTC.gov’s microsite on Minimizing your Risk.
  2. Rather than leaving your mail in an unsecured mailbox on your doorstep, you can open a secure mailbox at The UPS Store, where you can also deposit your outgoing mail in a convenient mail drop box.
  3. Always shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards, and credit offers you get in the mail. Participating The UPS Store locations offer shredding services so you can shred your junk mail right there at your mailbox.

For additional consumer protection resources, visit FTC.gov.

Category: Helpful Tips and Ideas
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    Comments [1]

  1. Thanks for sharing this information. As a sidebar, one
    easy fix for everyone is to secure your wireless network
    at home. A simple password requirement can save a
    world of trouble down the road. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it
    just makes good sense.

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