Tips to avoid identity theft - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Tips to avoid identity theft

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LEWISBURG, W. VA (WVVA)-- A consumer advocate from the West Virginia Office of the Attorney General sat down with Greenbrier County citizens Thursday to talk about consumer protection issues.

People were able to address their concerns and get answers.

Among the services the advocate, Margaret Chico-Eddy, provided were free credit reports, something she says are available for free three times a year from any of the credit bureaus: Experian, Transunion and Equifax.

"It is always good to check your credit report at least once a year, if not more," she said. Chico-Eddy explained this was a good way to see if you have been a victim of fraud.

"We just want to make sure everything that's on your credit report is actually you," she said.

Other tips she told WVVA include:

- if buying things online or traveling, do not use a debit card. "Debit cards are your money, it comes out of your account," said Chico-Eddy. "Use a credit card, that's the bank's money. You would only be liable for $50 of that [were the card to be stolen.]"

- keep your cards hidden, even at home. "Especially for seniors," said Chico-Eddy, "We are finding that often, their own family members are taking their identity."

- never give information over the phone, even if it is someone claiming to be a financial or government institution. "Hang up, if they have called you," said Chico-Eddy. She added that many phone scammers prey on unsuspecting people this way. "It is only ok to give information over the phone if you are the one who called the bank or government office."

- hide your personal information, even at home. "Especially if you have people visiting you," said Chico-Eddy. "You don't like to think they could be stealing from you, but they could."

- do not carry your social security card or passport. "Put them in a safe-deposit box," Chico-Eddy advised.

- use a paper-shredder to destroy mail and other items you are throwing out that may divulge personal information

- use a secure connection online, and change your passwords often

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