Dude, identity theft is like, not gnarly

Identity theft is rapidly becoming one of the biggest thorns in the side of modern technology. Everybody has seen the episode of “Oprah,” “60 Minutes” or “20/20” (the list goes on and on) where some poor sap has been taken for everything he/she has by a shady swindler. Often, the crook will come on the show and explain just how easy it was — by just typing a few corrupt keys into a computer or taking a devious Dumpster dive, he had everything he needed to launch his attack upon an unfortunate working stiff.

What’s really frightening is there are times when even the most careful person’s info can be exposed to the world. When the vital information one gives to a hospital or university is inadvertently compromised, she could possibly never know that a number that represents her more than her name has been “out there.” Unless she lives in California.

According to a recent Associated Press article, California is the only state that has a law stating companies have to notify their clients when personal information is breached. Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced this legislation in February with intentions to make this a law nationwide. It’s a great idea — and it should have been done sooner.

However, until the law does go into effect, people have to continue to protect themselves. The following tips are from www.identitytheftinfo.com — use them, and keep personal information safe from identity thieves.

– Be extremely cautious when handling and disclosing the following information: Social Security Number, mother’s maiden name, date of birth, past addresses, drivers license number, and, of course, bank and credit account numbers.

– Invest in a personal shredder. This is your first line of defense. Shred bank and credit card statements, canceled checks, pre-approved credit card offers, etc. before disposal. A cross-cut shredder offers added security because it makes it harder to reconstruct the document.

– Place garbage out on the morning of pickup rather than the night before. This gives Dumpster divers less opportunity to go through your garbage.

– Be aware of other directories in which you may be listed. In addition to the telephone directory, criminals have been known to find victims in “Who’s Who” and other publications.

– Install a residential mailbox with a locking mechanism or purchase a door with a mail slot.

– Don’t leave outgoing checks or paid bills in your residential mailbox. Take your mail to the post office or drop it in a U.S. Postal Service mailbox. Also, consider paying bills electronically: a lot of financial institutions now offer this option.

– Opt out of pre-approved credit card offers by calling (888) 5OPTOUT, or (888) 567-8688. Your request covers all three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax).

– When you order new checks, do not have them sent to your residence. Pick them up at the bank instead. Or, have them delivered to you by registered mail — so you have to sign for them personally.

– Call your credit card company if your card has expired and you have not yet received a replacement.

Until a federal law is enacted, we all have to protect ourselves.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.