Tips can help prevent identity fraud

October is National Crime Prevention Month and a good time for consumers to take a few simple steps to protect themselves from identity theft and fraud.

Non-profit Credit Counseling of Arkansas (CCOA) offers these important tips:

• Nearly 20 percent of identity theft crooks are people you know, such as family, friends, coworkers. So keep your debit and credit cards safe, as well as any sensitive financial information. Don’t leave your purse unattended in the employee break room or in your unattended shopping cart at the store, for example.

• Smartphone users are 33 percent more likely to be fraud victims than non-Smartphone users. Have a password lock for your phone, a security app, and only download apps from a trusted source. Doing these three simple things will greatly protect you.

• Guard your Social Security Number (SSN). The U.S. Secret Service says your SSN is the master key to your credit.

• Shred financially sensitive documents such as bank statements and payroll stubs before throwing them in the trash.

• Never give out information over the phone or by email to a company that contacts you requesting it. For example, crooks will often use “phishing” scams posing as your credit card company or your bank and try to trick you into giving them your account information. Don’t do it. Contact your bank or card company directly – such as by calling the toll-free customer service number on the back of your credit card – so you know 100 percent that you are dealing with the real company.

• Always remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, stop and take a step back, because it’s quite possibly a scam.

For more tips and resources, visit the National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s identity theft website