As part of National Consumer Protection Week this week, the Better Business Bureau and Apprisen, a national consumer credit counseling service with a Kennewick office, are giving out some advice.
Identity theft can come in many forms, such as if someone files taxes and obtains a refund using stolen personal information or seeks medical care or benefits using someone else's name.
The most common is when someone steals information and uses someone else's debit or credit card, often when the card is still in the owner's possession. That's why monitoring debit and credit card accounts is vital.
Here are some tips:
-- Protect personal information. Identity theft has remained one of the top complaints made to the Federal Trade Commission over the past decade. The commission advises locking financial documents and records up at home and locking up a wallet or purse while at work.
Also, limit the personal information in wallets, taking only the identification and credit and debit cards need. Leave Social Security cards locked up at home. Shred documents with any personal information such as bank statements, credit offers and receipts. And destroy labels on prescription bottles before throwing them out.
Only save passwords on a personal computer, not on a public computer or one at work.
And do not overshare on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Even information like a birth date can help an identity theft steal, according to the BBB.
-- Review your credit report regularly to check for possible identity theft. Access a free copy once every 12 months from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, by going to www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
-- Do an insurance review. Confirm with your insurance agent to make sure all loopholes are understood and any savings is received.
-- Be familiar with credit cards. Certain protections are part of credit card agreements. For example, being able to seek a refund if a product purchased was unsatisfactory. A list of credit protection laws is available at www.federalreserve.gov/creditcard/regs.html.
-- Know your rights. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is supposed to protect consumers and restricts unfair, deceptive or abusive acts, promotes financial education and accepts complaints. For more, go to www.consumerfinance.gov.
-- Think twice about clicking. Do not open files, click on links or download anything sent by strangers. Poor grammar and bad spelling can be a red flag.
For more information, call the BBB at 509-455-4200 or go to www.bbb.org.