Ken Paxton
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Watching for Identity Theft

Check your bank account and credit billing statements carefully each month for unauthorized activity. If you receive a credit card in the mail that you did not request, call the issuer to find out why. If it was requested by someone else in your name, cancel it immediately. When creating a password or pin, do not use numbers such as your birth date or the last four digits of your Social Security number. Also avoid using names, such as your mother's maiden name or your birthplace, that are likely to appear in public records.

If you are over 25, you should receive a Social Security statement by mail each year. Check it thoroughly and report any inaccuracies to the Social Security Administration. You can order a copy of your statement by calling (800) 772-1213.

You should review your credit reports for errors or fraud. You can order a free copy from each of the three credit bureaus once a year from the website Even if you have not been a victim of identity theft, consider asking the credit bureaus to place a security alert on your account as a protective measure. This alert instructs creditors to call you personally to verify applicant information when applying for new credit. While this will prevent you from getting instant credit, such as on-site approval for store charge cards, it will also stop others from getting credit in your name. Be sure to ask how long the alert will last, how to extend it and how to remove it.

If you need extreme protection, you can take the additional step of placing a security freeze on your credit report. A security freeze allows you to freeze, or lock, your credit files with each of the three major credit bureaus, so that lenders and retailers generally cannot access your credit information. A freeze will cost you money both to initiate and lift.

To learn whether any bad checks have been passed in your name, contact the Shared Check Authorization Network (SCAN). SCAN has the ability to quickly determine whether your checks have been fraudulently used in the United States. You can call SCAN at (800) 262-7771.

Following these steps will help you to know if you become a victim of identity theft.