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Identity theft: now society's fastest growing crime.

All of us have seen Citibank use creativity and humor in its TV commercials to illustrate how identity theft damages the financial lives of its victims. In advertisements for its Citi Identity Theft Solutions service, the victims of identity theft "speak" in the voices of "identity thieves" to a comic effect.

But as the entertaining commercials end, the victims return to looking glum--and for good reason. Having one's identity stolen can cause years of agony, including problems obtaining credit, the aggravation of having to clean up one's financial report and even legal problems. Identity theft, according to the FBI, is one the fastest-growing crimes in America, with 10 million victims every year.

Classic Security is fully committed to eliminating identity theft. We recently hosted a seminar at the New York Police Museum, which was arranged by several retired NYPD veterans we employ. Lt. Jessica Corey, a commanding officer in the department's crime prevention division, graciously advised a group of our employees and clients about taking steps to prevent identity theft.

We are intent on passing on the lieutenant's message to the general public. Here are some tips, courtesy of the FBI, on protecting your identity.

DO:

* Order a copy of your credit report each year from one of the national credit bureaus and review it closely for any questionable entries. Under federal law, you can now order one free copy of your credit report each year from the three major credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Additional copies can be purchased for a nominal fee;

* Shred or cut up all credit card receipts, old bank statements and bills before throwing them away. Buy a cross-cutting shredder--they cost a little more but are well worth the expense;

* Close all unused credit card or bank accounts;

* Remove your name from mailing lists for pre-approved credit lines and telemarketers;

* Keep your PIN number hidden when you use an ATM or public telephone;

* Contact your creditor or service provider if you notice odd charges or if expected bills don't arrive;

* Update your computer virus software, use a secure browser, and install a firewall program.

DO NOT:

* Give out personal information via the phone, mail, or Internet unless YOU initiated contact;

* Carry information like your Social Security Number (SSN) or any PIN numbers or passwords in your purse or wallet;

* Put your SSN on your checks or other identifiers.

IF YOUR IDENTITY IS STOLEN:

* Place a fraud alert on your credit file by notifying one of the national credit bureaus;

* Contact all creditors and financial institutions that an identity thief may have used to conduct transactions in your name and close all tampered accounts;

* Contact your local police department, as well as your local FBI field office, and file a report;

* File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (the FBI and other law enforcement agencies use these complaints in their investigations). Online identity thefts may also be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Identity theft doesn't just affect the victim. It costs corporations, law enforcement and taxpayers dearly. By taking these common-sense steps, we can help put a stop to identity theft.

GARY GREEN

CEO, ALLIANCE BUILDING SERVICES
COPYRIGHT 2006 Hagedorn Publication
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Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Green, Gary
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Feb 1, 2006
Words:526
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