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Avoiding ID Theft and Credit Fraud

Article excerpted from the new book, "How to Do Space Age Work with a Stone Age Brain" TM copyright 2004, all rights reserved, by Eve Abbott, the Organizer Extraordinaire

Each year billions of dollars in credit fraud is perpetrated on unsuspecting citizens. With so much personal information publicly available (or easily available to someone with medium computing skills) it is essential to develop good habits to prevent your information from falling into criminal hands. It is possible for someone to create an entire identity (get driver's license, etc.) based on just a few pieces of information.

I know of an employee who sustained an on-the-job injury then applied for disability. He was shocked when they turned him down. According to Workmen's Compensation records he had been collecting disability for the last year and a half. Someone had gotten their hands on enough information to drain his account!

It can take years and thousands of dollars to correct an identity theft, credit fraud or a simple key entry error by a clerk at a Credit Bureau. It takes minutes for you to do these simple tips:

Destroy all pre-approved credit offers you get in the mail before you discard them. Otherwise, someone can fill out a new address and get credit in your name. Use a paper-shredder for all documents with your financial or legal information included. Sign all your credit cards with 'Please ask for photo ID' instead of your signature.

Never give out your SSN or credit card information on the phone unless you initiate the call and you know to whom you are talking. Never carry your social security number in your wallet.

You don't have to give your SSN to businesses that request it, although they do have the right to refuse service. Only government agency, and employment or tax related inquiries must be answered.

Reduce the number of pre-approved offers you get by requesting these credit bureaus remove your name from their lists: TRW (800) 353-0809, Equifax (800) 219-1251 and TransUnion (800) 241-2858.

Once a year carefully check out your free credit report from Experian (800) 682-7654 and free Social Security file (800) 772-1213. If you are denied credit based on your report, the issuing credit bureau must provide you with a free copy upon request - even if they usually charge for it.

If you don't have a 'business of having a life' filing system, check out the cost-effective Home and Small Business File Kits that I use in my own business, which makes it easy for me to guarantee your satisfaction. (www.organize.com)

Do not give out confidential information on e-mail or do financial transactions on the Internet unless it's secure and encoded. (Look for the SSL reference)

Check guarantee and check verification agencies must provide the same protection as credit bureaus, such as access to your report and correction of errors. If your check is refused, get the agency name.

For assistance in re-establishing good credit and correcting errors, the non-profit Consumer Credit Counseling Service may be able to help you. To find the office nearest you call (800) 388-2227.

More free time-saving tips are available at http://www.organize.com

For over 15 years, Eve Abbott has been writing, speaking and consulting with executives, managers and business owners on boosting their effectiveness with organizing tools and techniques to melt the paper blizzard and tackle e-mail overload. Eve is the Organizer Extraordinaire, a personal productivity expert whose wisdom has reached the pages of the New York Times, Working Woman and Home Office Computing.

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