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Protecting Your Good Name – Part II 

Most people don’t realize they’ve been a victim of identity theft until it’s too late.So we asked our experts: How are criminals getting into what’s ours? What can we do to stay one step ahead?”One of the biggest ways people are victimized is with their credit card transactions,” says Rep. Chris Greeley, who’s also a Holden police officer. “Online transactions, ATM transactions, not paying attention when you’re using your credit card in line, not paying attention to what they’re doing with their credit card receipts…”Greeley says the more aware we are of how we’re putting our personal financial information out the there, the better.”One of the things we see in law enforcement is you go to a restaurant, you go to pay your bill and you give the person your credit card, and they wander off,” he says. “You don’t know what they’re doing with the credit card.”Don’t write down your Social Security number on that form, or let people photocopy your driver’s license, just because they asked. Find out if it’s necessary. “There are people that if they’re asked for it, they’ll give it out,” says Don Smith, of Penobscot County Federal Credit Union. He helps people run credit reports and look for any fraudulent accounts opened in their name. Experts say check your credit report at least once a year – if not more.”That I think is where it can hurt you the most, is if this stuff finds it way onto a credit report,” he says.Look for anything unusual on the report.”Someone will say, ‘that’s not right. That’s not me.’ That’s when you can realize – wait a minute – someone’s out there using your Social Security number, your name, your address. It is happening,” he says.”You don’t need to be paranoid, just start thinking about every place you put sensitive information to make sure it’s secure.”If you think of the average neighborhood,” says Greeley, “if a criminal just went around the East Side of Bangor perhaps and just hit every mailbox – they’re probably going to get 5 or 10 or 20 credit cards bills in the course of one day.”He says, lock your mailbox, and use cash when you can. Even junk mail these days has personal information on it – make sure it’s shredded before you throw it away.”There are people out there that will go trough dumpsters or one’s personal garbage to find account information,” Smith says.If you are a victim of identity theft, file a police report. In many cases, you’ll need one to dispute any charges made to your accounts.”There are very good federal and state laws in place that protect victims on identity theft. And the key to those protections starts with a copy of the law enforcement report,” says Jane Carpenter, in the Consumer Protection Division at the Attorney General’s Office.They say a lot of this comes down to awareness, and treating your Social Security number and your account numbers and like the precious commodities they are.The Attorney General’s Office Recommends:http://www.maine.gov/ag/consumer/identity_theft/index.shtmlhttp://www.donotcall.govhttp://optoutprescreen.comhttp://www.annualcreditreport.comPolice Recommend:http://www.identitytheft.com/index.php/article/steps_to_take_for_stolen_identityhttp://idtheft.about.com/cs/a.htmOther:http://www.ftc.gov/idthefthttp://www.onguardonline.gov/http://www.greeleyconsulting.com/