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HPD Offers Top Ten Tips to Reduce Identity Theft

October 10, 2005 -- The Houston Police Department has created an education campaign to help the public protect themselves from identity theft. Due to the many ways of committing this crime, everyone is a potential victim but there are a number
of ways to reduce the chance of becoming a victim. Reducing access to personal identifying numbers is a must. Identity thieves are sophisticated and use a wide range of techniques to obtain your personal information. These include sorting through discarded trash (dumpster diving), rifling through coworkers' desk drawers, bribing bank employees, stealing U.S. mail, soliciting personal identifiers through false job applications schemes and of course on the internet.

1. Don't carry extra credit cards, your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport in your wallet or purse except when absolutely necessary.

2. Install a locked mailbox at your residence or business to deter mail theft. Don't leave paid bills at your mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up; take them to the post office instead.

3. Never print your Social Security number on checks, and release the number only when absolutely necessary.

4. Carefully review credit card statements and bank account statements.

5. Cancel all unused credit card accounts and keep a list or photocopy of all your credit cards so you can contact the issuers in case your cards are stolen.

6. Never give out your credit card number or other personal information over the phone unless you have a trusted business relationship with the company and you initiated the call.

7. When creating passwords and PINs, never use the last four digits of your Social Security number, your birth date, middle name, pet's name, consecutive numbers or anything else that could easily be discovered by thieves.

8. Don't throw away pre-approved credit offers without shredding them first.

9. When you order new checks, do not have them sent to your home's mailbox. Pick them up at the bank instead.

10. Order your credit report once a year from each of the three credit bureaus, and make sure that you recognize every line of business that has been established on your file.

If you suspect your identity has been stolen contact your local police agency. The manner in which you have been victimized will determine your next course of action. For more information contact the Houston Police Department Financial Crimes Unit at 713-308-0900.

AW/ RMM 10-10-05

For additional information, please contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200.