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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dude! Don't Steal My Identity!

I wish some people would use their skills for good instead of evil!  It never ceases to amaze me how low some people will stoop to steal from others.  One of the most valuable things you have is your identity – and now there are people stealing even that.
By stealing your identity, a thief can impersonate you and steal money from your bank account.  They can set up phone insurance policies and place fraudulent claims.  Thieves can open credit cards or get bank loans using your name.  Some have even used other people’s identities to get a job or take out a home loan.
Usually your identity can be stolen if your wallet is lost or stolen or the thief gets access to your personal information.  By digging through your trash, they may gain access to account numbers and personal data.  Some online stores create an exposure for you to lose your identity.  Stolen credit card numbers is the most common, but you may also be tricked through a “phishing” website, that looks like a legitimate site, and it requests that you enter personal information.
After your identity is stolen, it can take a great deal of time to sort through the damage and get all of the records corrected.  You could be left with a bad credit score and have problems in the future if you need to take out a loan.
Many good home and renter’s policies now offer identity theft coverage for a very reasonable rate ($12-$40/year).  The coverage can help you with the costs of restoring  your identity.  Costs you will incur could include lost wages, notary and mailing, phone and possible attorneys.
The Insurance Information Institute offers some good advice for avoiding Identity Theft:
+ Minimize the amount of personal information and credit cards that you keep in your purse and wallet
+ Protect your codes and credit card numbers shielded from nosey neighbors.
+ Always take your receipts and don’t throw them in public trashcans.
+ Only make online purchases from websites that start with https:// or check for the “locked padlock” on your browser’s status bar.
+ Don’t click links in emails, even if it looks legitimate, and don’t fill in any personal information.  Access the website directly from your browser so you are not hijacked.
+ Use firewalls and anti-virus software on your computer.  There are many FREE sources available.
+ Monitor your credit reports and your accounts.  There are 3 major credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
+ Use complex passwords with a combination of Upper-lower case and a special character (#, $, etc), and change your password periodically.
+ Shred all documents that have personal information.
If you are on the Gulf Coast, contact your Trusted Choice agent, SouthGroup-Gulf Coast / , SERVICE TEAM: Angelyn Treutel, Tammy Garfield, Dawn Garza, Tammy Hogue, Brittany Jones, Wendy Johnson, Denise Russell, Melissa Moran, Alex Treutel, Susan Monti, Kayleigh Davis, Anne Gillam, Ashlie Moody, and Whitney Zimmerman at SouthGroup Gulf Coast. You can reach us by snail-mail: 412 Hwy 90, Suite 6, Bay St Louis MS 39520, email:  , phone:228-466-4498, fax:888-415-8922,

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