Tips to protect yourself from identity theft

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) Six people in Anchorage were charged late last week with 29 counts of bank fraud, identity theft, and other charges related to stealing mail and other personal documents, and then cashing checks and opening bank accounts in others’ names.

This week, Channel 2 talked with the Better Business Bureau about the best way to secure your mail, and your identity, to keep thieves from having easy access to your personal information.

Michelle Tabler, the Alaska Regional Manager for the Better Business Bureau in Alaska, says securing both your incoming and outgoing mail is the best way to safeguard your information, as is making sure to shred all personal documents, not just tearing them apart.

“Still, the Number 1 way for identity theft is still by physical means, which means dumpster diving, and I can guarantee there are people out at the landfill that are going through the trash,” Tabler said. “They go through the dumpsters, they can go through your trash if you’re not home, so it’s not a good idea to throw anything out with personal information. Make sure you shred it first.”

Tabler says even making sure to take labels off your prescription bottles, and shredding the label, will help secure your identity. Anything with your personal information is up for grabs.

When it comes to your mail, Tabler says to make sure you have a secured box, whether it’s getting a P.O. Box or another secured box. She also says to only put outgoing mail like bills in a secured outgoing box.

“In the old days, when you had outgoing mail, you put the red flag up. Well now, that’s a red flag for scammers that you’ve got outgoing mail. And what do you have, you’ve got checks in there, paying bills,” Tabler said.

Other tips Tabler has include the way you format, and order new checks for your checking account. Tabler suggests ordering new checks to be delivered to your workplace, or for pickup at the bank if you don’t have a secure mailbox. And keep the information printed on them limited.

“Just put your first initial and your last name. They won’t know how you sign your first name,” Tabler said, “and that’s all you need because everything else is by the routing number.”

Tabler also suggests limiting the amount of paper documents going through your mail by going to online statements or online bill paying, because that limits the amount of personally-identifying information thieves can access. Even account numbers for your bills could compromise your identity.

“All tax returns, statements, bills, cell phone bills – some people just want to tear it in half and throw it away. It has all your information on it. Just don’t do that,” Tabler said.

When it comes to shredding personal information, the Better Business Bureau is hosting a free shred event on October 14th at the Sears Mall. The event will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tabler says to bring up to three boxes of personal documents to shred.

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