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Protect your identity
Identity theft is the biggest growth area for fraudsters, who will go to any length to steal your most valuable information. Take these 10 measures to protect yourself...
1. Protect your personal information
Never give the security information that you have given to your credit card company for identification purposes to anyone else. This applies whether they're claiming to be a landlord, hotel clerk, bank official, online sales company, or travel agent. This information typically includes your date of birth, your address and your mother's maiden name.
Never give out any personal information on the phone, through the mail, or online unless you've initiated the contact and are sure who you're dealing with.
2. Shred before you dump
Destroy any documents containing personal information - especially bank records - before putting them in the bin. Be particularly careful about what you throw into your green bin.
3. Never let your credit or debit card out of your sight
"Skimming" is the name given to the practice of cloning a credit or debit card by inserting it into an illegal data storage device. It only takes a few seconds and could happen when, for example, your card is taken away to pay the bill in a restaurant.
4. If in doubt, take your card out
If you notice anything strange about an ATM machine or suspect it may have been tampered with, remove your card and notify the bank or the gardai.
Criminals can use bank machines to "skim" your details by inserting a data storage device into the machine that allows them to record your details and duplicate your card.
5. Beware of 'phishing'
Never respond to emails or phone calls from unknown sources seeking your personal information such as bank details.
Phishing also involves criminals posing as legitimate companies over the phone and asking for personal details that could be used to access your bank records.
Once again, be very careful about whom you choose to share this information with.
6. Secure your PC
Some or all of your personal contact details, financial records, tax returns, birth date, and bank account numbers, may be stored on your computer. Take these steps to ensure it stays there, and doesn't end up in the wrong hands:
- Invest in a good virus protection program
- Never open files sent by strangers, or click on hyperlinks within emails or download files from people you don't know. Be careful about using file-sharing (such as free music download) programs
- Use a firewall program, especially if you have a high-speed internet connection
- Use a secure browser - software that encrypts or scrambles information you send over the Internet - to guard your online transactions
- When giving your personal details to websites, check for "https" in the address bar of the browser, and/or the padlock symbol at the bottom of the screen. This makes it difficult for the information you are supplying to be intercepted
7. Act quickly
If you've mislaid your cards, personal information or passport, or suspect your details have been obtained by fraud, cancel all your cards immediately by calling the 24-hour emergency number for your bank - and notify the gardai if necessary.
8. Never give your PIN to someone else
No-one, not even your bank manager, has the right to ask for your PIN number, so never give it out.
9. Change your PIN numbers regularly
Avoid using numbers that might easily be linked to you, such as your birth date, the last four digits of your phone number, the number of your house or any series of consecutive numbers.
10. Stay alert for signs that your information is being used by someone else
Watch out for things like:
- Not receiving bills or other items you were expecting in the post. A missing bill could mean identity thieves have taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover their tracks
- Receiving credit cards or other things that you didn't apply for
- Being denied credit or being offered less favourable credit terms such as a high interest rate for no apparent reason
- Calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn't order
- Finally, always read your financial statements thoroughly and carefully.