Alert
Close

Think you know AARP? What you don't know about us may surprise you. Discover all the 'Real Possibilities'

Highlights

Open

You and Your Town Contest-You could win an AARP RealPad

AARP Auto Buying Program

Contests and
Sweeps

$10,000 Winter Escapes Sweepstakes

Beat the cold and cozy up to a chance of winning $10,000! See official rules.

Driver Safety

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

AARP Books

Visit the Money Section

Enjoy titles on retirement, Social Security, and becoming debt-free.

Jobs You Might Like

most popular
articles

Viewed

You are Your Own Best Protection Against Identity Theft

woman shredding receipts in paper shredder, close-up

— Martin Poole/Getty Images

During tough economic times, thieves are even more anxious to separate people from their hard-earned cash and will use any number of scams to do so.

But the greatest tool in preventing identity theft is – well, you. That was the message conveyed by AARP New Mexico Volunteers Jackie Cooper and Bill Morrison during a presentation at the Lt. Governor’s Financial Summit, held in April in Albuquerque.

“People are desperate. People are trying to make money the easy way. You are your own best police person,” Cooper said.

One of the best ways people can protect themselves is fairly new to New Mexicans and that is implementing a security freeze.

A security freeze, which is placed on your account through the three credit reporting agencies, prevents anyone from opening a new account, such as financing a product, opening a bank account or new credit card, under a person’s name without that individual’s direct authorization. It does not affect existing accounts, Morrison said.

He told the audience a story of a relative who was contacted by a lending institution to verify some information on a loan. The relative had no idea that someone had listed him as a partner in a business and was now taking out a loan in his name.

“If it wasn’t for that typo he would’ve been in a lot of trouble and even so clearing up his name still cost him in travel and time,” Morrison said.

To implement a security freeze, a letter needs to be sent to each of the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experían, and TransUnion. The letter should include your social security number, date of birth, a copy of a government issued ID, and a proof of residency, such as a copy of a utility bill.

If you are age 65 or over, or have already been a victim of identity theft, there is no cost for the freeze. If not, be sure to include with each letter a check or money order. There is a fee of $10 to implement the freeze, payable to each reporting agency. There is a cost of $5 to unfreeze an account.

But protecting yourself can be done by taking just a few simple steps on a regular basis.

“One of the most important things you can do is buy a shredder,” Cooper said.

She advises that people shred any documents that contain any kind of personal information including home addresses rather than just throwing them in the trash.

Other steps include:

•    Cleaning out your car and wallet on a regular basis so you don’t leave important information, such as bank statements and receipts, inadvertently lying around.
•    Don’t mail checks from home or leave them lying in a community box overnight – drop them off at the Post Office.
•    Arrange for direct deposit of checks and automatic payment of regular bills.
•    Store personal records in a safe place.
•    Opt-out of unsolicited credit card offers.
•    Never give out personal information to strangers. Most banks and other institutions you do business with will not telephone you and ask you for personal information, account numbers or your Social Security number. Never “verify” your information for someone claiming to be from a business unless you initiated the call yourself.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Life insurance: you are covered rain or shine

Exclusive annuities for members from AARP Lifetime Income Program from New York Life.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Homeowners Insurance
Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points