Weve gathered 10 tips for protecting yourself and your privacy from those nasty folks trying to grab your savings.
1. Do Not Call Registry
Avoid telemarketers by signing up with the national Do Not Call Registry, run by the Federal Trade Commission. You can register cell phones and home phones (but not business lines) by calling toll free 888-382-1222 or going to donotcall.gov. Once you register, telemarketers have 31 days to stop calling. Your registration will last for at least five years. A free service.
2. Screen out telemarketers
Buy an inexpensive answering machine and use it to screen you from telemarketers. Let your friends know about the machine and that they should leave you a message. You can pick up when you hear their voices.
3. Get unlisted at Google
Find out if your name and address are publicly available by entering your phone number in the google.com search box. Use the format xxx-xxx-xxxx to enter the number. Its easy to remove your listing.
4. Skip your mailbox for outgoing mail
The bad guys actually go out and steal mail, looking for outgoing checks which they can alter and for personal identity information. Give outgoing mail to your carrier, put it in a locked mailbox or take it to the post office.
5. Opt out
Incoming credit card and insurance offers (another identity theft risk) can be stopped by signing up at optoutprescreen.com. You can sign up for five years online. For a lifetime term, print out a form letter, sign and mail it. Or sign up by calling toll free 888-567-8688. A free service.
6. Avoid junk mail
Sign up with the Mail Preference Service and be excluded from mailings of Direct Marketing Association members. See dmaconsumers.org/offmailinglist.html to sign up or get more information. $1 charge per address.
7. A free credit report every four months
By law, you can obtain a free credit report annually from each of the three large credit bureaus. Monitor your reports to spot unauthorized activity and find and correct errors, and maybe even improve your credit score. Ask for a report, from a different bureau, every four months. See the free official government-authorized annualcreditreport.com website or call toll free 877-322-8228. Note: You will need to provide your Social Security Number. Avoid online look-alikes, which are loaded with fees.
8. Freeze your credit files
Placing a security freeze on your credit data makes it unavailable to lenders and others. Freezes make most sense for people who do not expect to apply for a loan or other new credit. Freezing and unfreezing your files costs money ($10 for each bureau to freeze, for example). For more information see privacy.ca.gov/sheets/cis10securityfreeze.htm.
9. Watch out for lightweight credentials
A week at summer camp is more work than obtaining some lofty-sounding credentials. The New York Times highlighted Certified Senior Advisor, Certified Retirement Financial Advisor, Registered Financial Gerontologist and Certified Retirement Counselor among titles that can be earned in just a few days and detailed how these titles have proliferated. Why obtain such a credential? To sell more easily to seniors!
10. Shred it and forget it
Dumpster-divers dig through trash to find personal information. They use (or sell) the information for stealing identities and credit. So use a shredder (cross-cut or confetti) on all paperwork that contains personal information before you discard it.