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Protect Yourself From ID Thieves And Fraudsters

Willie Sutton may have robbed banks "because that's where the money is," but today, thieves are more likely to be stealing personal information - because that's where the money is. Whether they get your sensitive information from dumpster diving or stealing your passwords, they can use it to assume your identity to open up false accounts, make illegitimate charges, and perform other misdeeds.

Protect yourself from data heists and identity theft with these tips:

  • 1. Before discarding documents with personal information (such as old account statements or copies of share drafts) shred them.
  • 2. Frequently change your passwords and make them complex. Password management websites such as KeePass and Password Safe can help if you have a problem remembering all of your passwords. Don't use the same password for multiple sites. It makes you more vulnerable to a data breach.
  • 3. Photocopy your credit and debit cards, including the toll-free number on the back of the card, and keep the copy in a secure location. If your cards are lost or stolen, it will be less of a hassle to cancel and reorder them.

How To Get Your Free Credit Reports

Did you know that one of the most effective tools to combat identity theft is to regularly review your credit reports? With the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you can obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).

Checking your credit reports once a year is a good way to discover identity theft. Plus, you can also identify errors in your credit reports. The only official site explicitly directed by Federal law to provide them is Lots of sites promise credit reports for free but that may not be the case. You can also order your free credit reports through a toll-free number 1-877-322-8228, or you can write to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. For more information visit

Raising Money-Smart Kids

All parents want their children to succeed. So it makes sense to teach them how to be a wise consumer and competent money manager. As with most things, kids don't always practice what you preach, but they often emulate what you practice. So evaluate your own attitudes about money and become financially literate yourself.

As appropriate, involve your children in the family's financial planning. For example, if the kids want to vacation at Disneyworld, chart out the cost and talk about how you will be able to afford it: Will you have a meatless meal every week and put the savings toward the vacation fund? Or, will the kids pitch in with the yard work, with money not spent on outside help going toward the trip? How can you shop for the best travel values?

Help your kids understand the difference between needs and wants. Give your children allowances and teach them how to divide it into money to save, money to spend and money to share. Let them be in charge of managing their allowances and don't give in to constantly advancing them funds if they overspend.

Look for opportunities for your kids to earn money by doing extra chores, either around the house or for friends and neighbors. If you are holding a garage sale, give your kids the chance to sell toys and games they've lost interest in.

Encourage your school system to include personal finance in its curriculum, and suggest your kids take any personal finance classes available at their school.