Protect Yourself from Fraud

Southern Californians are vulnerable to identity theft and credit card fraud, but there are precautions they can take in order to avoid being victimized.

In a statement this morning, the Automobile Club of Southern California's Financial Services division cited Federal Trade Commission statistics reporting 44,000 Californians were victims of identity theft in 2007, which led the nation. The state also had the second-highest number of identity theft victims per capita in 2007, following only Arizona, according to the FTC.

Fraud and prevention tips offered by AAA Financial Services included:

- Keep credit cards and identification out of view, and carrying them only when needed.

- Review monthly statements and online accounts to check the accuracy of charges

- Report billing errors and lost or stolen cards immediately.

- Use identity theft monitoring services.

- Watch for "phishing" e-mails that direct recipients to enter credit card or personal information on a bogus copy of a real Web site,supposedly to verify accounts.

- Never give credit card, social security number, birth date or other information on the phone unless the merchant is known to you or you have initiated the call.

- Keep credit, debit, and ATM card receipts to track usage.

- Maintain a list of credit card account numbers, issuer contact information and phone numbers of the three credit reporting agencies in case credit cards are lost or stolen.

- Shred any documents with credit card information before they are disposed of.

- Make internet purchases with credit cards only from safe, encrypted locations (prefix at the top of the sites should read https:// rather than http://).

- Use credit rather than debit cards when making purchases on the Internet. Debit card use puts one's own money at risk rather than the bank's.

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