Crime Prevention: Protecting Your Privacy
Keeping an Eye on Your Private Information

Email, the Internet, automated teller machines (ATMs), online banking, cell phones, long-distance carriers, and credit cards make our lives more efficient. However, as our lives become more integrated with technology, keeping our private information confidential becomes more difficult. Electronic transactions can leave you vulnerable to identity theft and other types of fraud. Following a few simple tips can help you keep your private information safe.

Passwords

Passwords are often required to access information from financial, medical, and other institutions. Hackers have sophisticated tools for cracking passwords. Here are some tips for creating and protecting your passwords.

Personal Identification Numbers

The personal identification number (PIN) is one method used by banks and phone companies to protect your account from unauthorized access. A PIN is a confidential code issued to the cardholder to permit access to that account. You can protect your PIN number by following these tips:

Social Security Numbers

Some businesses and government agencies believe that using your Social Security number (SSN) is the most accurate way to store and retrieve information. But your Social Security number is also the prime target of criminals interested in committing identity theft and other crimes. Therefore, it is essential that you protect your SSN.

Credit Cards

If you shop online or over the phone, you may pay by credit card. Because you cannot use the physical card, you will probably give your credit card number, including the expiration date, over the phone or Internet. If these numbers fall into the wrong hands, you may find unauthorized charges on your next credit card statement.

Reporting a Problem

If there are unauthorized charges on your credit card statement or withdrawals from your bank account, notify the police and the financial institution immediately. If you are a victim of identity theft, file a police report;file an online complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/; notify the three major credit card bureaus: Equifax (www.equifax.com), Experian (www.experian.com), and Trans Union(www.transunion.com);and close your account.