Protect Your Identity in Stores and Online

I received my free Consumer Reports 2006 buying guide last week.
This article, “Protect Your Identity in Stores and Online”, is very helpfull for everyone, I think.
The following is the excerpt of it.
It is very hard to go shopping without worrying about identity theft. Credit cards, debit cards, personal checks, and registrations can put you at risk of joining the estimated 10 million people who have been victimized in the past year. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your vulnerability to identity theft.
One of the best shields against ID theft is being vigilantly aware of the status of your finances and your credit report.
Keep an eye on your accounts.
Check every items on your monthly statement.
Watch for monthly utility bills.
Check with your utility companies if a bill doesn’t arrive on time.
In USA, everyone has the right to a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from the each of the three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To order copies of your reports, go to the site authorized by the Federal Trade Commission, www.annualcreditreport.com. or call 877-322-8228.
Freeze your credit.
Some states have security-freeze laws that require credit reporting agencies to lock up your credit reports upon your request. This prevents anyone from seeing your report without your unfreezing it.
Keep your data to yourself.
Take care of your own security information.


Enter payment on secure sites only.
For online payment, only use the secure site.
Think carefully about where you store your credit-card number.
Do not agree the web site keep your credit-card number if possible.
Use caution with small stores.
Don’t respond to e-mail “phishing” scams.
There are a lot of e-mail “phishing” these days. Delete directly when your receive them.
Dedicate a credit card for online shopping.
Don’t use debit cards online.
Protect your computer.
Install a firewall. Use antivirus and antispam software, and sign up for automatic updates.
Never use shared computers for online shopping.
Never use public Wi-Fi hotspots for online shopping.
The public Wi-Fi hotspot is open for everyone, including the thief.

What to do if you’re a victim.
Go to the following web sites, which outline how to protect your current assets, lock up your credit and start to regain your good name.
The FTC’ identity theft center
www.consumer.gov/idtheft
Identity Theft Resource Center
www.idtheftcenter.org
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
www.privacyrights.org/identity.htm

This site also provide some good advice to protect your id.
http://www.consumerinfo.com/