Identity Theft Prevention
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. It can occur when a criminal steals personal identifying information such as name, birth date, Social Security number or your mother’s maiden name and uses it for their own gain. These thefts can occur through lost or stolen credit or debit cards, non-secure online transactions, personal information recovered from your garbage, and most frequently, stolen mail from your mailbox.
BASIC SAFETY TIPS
- Don’t carry important numbers or passwords with you.
- Memorize your Social Security number.
- Don’t use your date of birth as your password.
- Never leave receipts behind.
- Sign your new credit cards immediately.
- Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately. Make sure you keep the numbers of the issuers somewhere besides on the back of your card!
- Always check your monthly financial statements carefully against your receipts.
- Review your consumer credit report annually.
- Don’t leave mail in your mailbox for more than a day. If you are gone, arrange to have a trusted neighbor or friend pick up your mail.
- Double check that mailboxes are official US Postal Service collection boxes before you deposit your mail.
- Shred or tear up all unnecessary documents that have your personal information on them.
- Never put in a credit or debit card number through a website unless it offers a secure transaction.
- A secure transaction will have a “padlock” icon at the bottom strip of the web page. Also, the URL address will change from “http” to “https” on the page where you input personal data.
DISCOVERING ID THEFT
- Checking your financial statements frequently and carefully can be your best first step towards discovering an ID theft.
- The sooner you discover your identity is being used, the sooner you can begin to fight back to lessen the damage the criminal can do.
REPORTING ID THEFT
- Call the Police: To report a physical theft of your belongings, or a robbery. If immediate danger is over, you can make a report to the Seattle Police non-emergency line: (206) 625-5011
- Call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service office: If the crime involved U.S. mail. (206) 442-6300
- Call the U.S. Secret Service: If the crime involved counterfeit credit cards or computer hacking. (206)220-6800
- Call the issuing credit card company: if the crime involved credit card fraud.
- Carry a flashlight
- Walk, don't run.
- Stay on Sidewalks
- Obey traffic signals
- Stay in familiar neighborhoods
- Don't cut across yards or driveways.
- Wear a watch you can read in the dark.
- Make sure costumes don't drag on the ground.
- Shoes should fit (even if they don't go with your costume)
- Avoid wearing masks while walking from house to house.
- Carry only flexible knives, swords or other props.
- (If no sidewalk) walk on the left side of the road facing traffic
- Wear clothing with reflective markings or tape.
- Approach only houses that are lit.
- Stay away from and don't pet animals you don't know.
- Make your child eat dinner before setting out.
- Children should carry quarters so they can call home.
- Ideally, young children of any age should be accompanied by an adult.
- If your children go on their own, be sure they wear a watch, preferably one that can be read in the dark.
- If you buy a costume, look for one made of flame-retardant material.
- Older children should know where to reach you and when to be home.
- You should know where they're going.
- Although tampering is rare, tell children to bring the candy home to be inspected before consuming anything.
- Look at the wrapping carefully and toss out anything that looks suspect.
- Make sure your yard is clear of such things as ladders, hoses, dog leashes and flower pots that can trip the young ones.
- Pets get frightened on Halloween. Put them up to protect them from cars or inadvertently bitting a trick-or-treater.
- Battery powered jack o'lantern candles are preferable to a real flame.
- If you do use candles, place the pumpkin well away from where trick-or-treaters will be walking or standing.
- Make sure paper or cloth yard decorations won't be blown into a flaming candle.
- Healthy food alternatives for trick-or-treaters include packages of low-fat crackers with cheese or peanut butter filling, single-serve boxes of cereal, packaged fruit rolls, mini boxes of raisins and single-serve packets of low-fat popcorn that can be microwaved later.
- Non-food treats: plastic rings, pencils, stickers, erasers, coins.
- Make sure any light set you purchase has been approved by Underwriters Laboratories. The UL Listing Mark on a product label guarantees that representative samples of the product have been tested and comply with applicable UL safety requirements. Also, make sure you get the right set -- for indoor use, outdoor use or both.
- Do not overload electrical circuits. Circuits in older homes carry a maximum of 15 amps or 1,800 watts each. Circuits in most new homes can carry 20 amps or 2,400 watts each. To figure out your holiday lighting load, multiply the number of bulbs by the number of watts per bulb (see above chart). Be sure to include house lamps, appliances and other electrical equipment on the same circuit.
- Before you decorate, check light sets for frayed wires, damaged sockets or cracked insulation. If you find defects, replace the entire set.
- Avoid fire by keeping your natural tree well watered and keeping extension cords and light sets away from the water. Light the tree only when you are at home and awake to enjoy it. Keep a fire extinguisher handy and your smoke detectors in good working order.
- Unplug indoor tree lights before watering the tree, and turn off all electrical decorations before leaving home or going to bed.
- For outdoor lighting, use a ground fault circuit interrupter on each circuit. If current leaks through frayed or damaged wires, the interrupter shuts it off. Most hardware stores carry these at a cost of $7 to $10.
- Be careful with ladders! Don't stand higher than the top two steps, and keep them at least ten feet away from overhead power lines.