Protect yourself against Identity Theft !

Mortgage and Lending with American National Bank & Trust NMLS #268590

I originally posted these tips before Christmas in 2013 but they still apply today.   Here's wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday season. 


It's Christmas Time, Here's 10 Ways To Protect Against Identity Theft 

Mortgage and Lending with American National Bank and Trust NMLS #268590
December 13, 2013 03:21AM


It's estimated that there were 10 million victims of identity theft in 2008, and 1 in every 10 U.S. consumers have reported having their identity stolen.   The numbers keep going up every year.

The U.S. Department of Justice reported in 2005 that 1.6 million households experienced fraud not related to credit cards (i.e. their bank accounts or debit cards were compromised).

And, the U.S. DOJ also reported that those households with incomes higher than 70,000  were TWICE  as likely to experience identity theft as those with salaries under $50,000.

What Is Identity Theft?

According to the United States Department of Justice, identity theft and identity fraud "are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain."

Such personal information may include your name, address, driver’s license number, Social Security number, date of birth, credit card number or banking information.

Victims of identity theft can spend months, or even years, trying to restore their good name. And most victims do not realize it has happened until they get denied for a mortgage or a credit card.

Ten Ways to Protect Your Identity:

1. Dumpster Diving -

Avoid "dumpster diving" criminals by shredding all papers that contain any personal information like your name, address, phone number or family member's names.

Criminals sift through trash looking for the following:

-Bank Statements
-ATM Receipts
-Canceled Checks
-Credit Card Statements
-Credit Card Purchase Receipts
-Credit Card Solicitations (unopened "pre-approval" solicitations)
-Pay Stubs
-Tax Documents
-Utility Bills
-Expired Identification Cards (Drivers License, Passports...)
-Expired Credit Cards
-Medical Statements
-Insurance Documents

2. Personal Info / Phone Calls -

Never provide personal information, including your Social Security number, passwords or account numbers over the phone or internet if you did not initiate the call.

If you are asked for any type of personal information, before giving any information, ask the caller for their name, telephone number and the organization that they are representing.

You should then hang up and call the company back using the customer service number the company provides with your account statement. Do NOT call the number you were given by an unsolicited caller.

To reduce the number of solicitations you receive, you should sign up at the do not call registry:

call: (888) 382-1222

3. Look Over Your Shoulder -

Avoid "Skimming and shoulder surfing" (Never let your credit card out of your sight).

Pay with cash. Try never to let your credit card out of your sight to avoid a fraud scheme known as "skimming".

According to Wikipedia:

"Skimming is the theft of credit card information used in an otherwise legitimate transaction. It is typically an "inside job" by a dishonest employee of a legitimate merchant. The thief can procure a victim’s credit card number using basic methods such as photocopying receipts or more advanced methods such as using a small electronic device (skimmer) to swipe and store hundreds of victim's credit card numbers."

Be aware of people "shoulder surfing". This is when they are looking over your shoulder or standing too close.   They are trying to obtain your PIN number when you're making purchases with your debit card. They may also be looking at your credit card number.

4. Secure Your Mail -

Always mail your outgoing bill payments and checks from the post office or a secure neighborhood blue postal box but never from home.   Criminals know outgoing bills will often have checks with account numbers, phone numbers or even identifying information like social security or driver's license numbers on them.   The checks also have a signature making it easy to acquire for forgery.

Pick up your incoming mail as soon as it is delivered. The longer it sits in the mailbox, the better chance a criminal has of stealing it.   Criminals are looking for Christmas cards sitting in your mail box that may have money or gift cards inside.

If you will be delayed or are traveling over the holidays, protect your mail by:

-Getting a P.O. Box

-Locking Your Mail Box

-Having someone pick up your mail or have the Post Office hold it for you until you return.

Contact your creditors if a bill doesn’t arrive when expected or includes charges you don’t recognize. It may indicate that your information has already been stolen and is being used fraudulently.

5. Read Credit Card and Account Statements -

Review all credit card and account statements to make sure you recognize each of the purchases listed before paying the bill.

If your credit card holder offers electronic account access, take advantage and periodically review the activity that is posted to your account.

The quicker you spot any unauthorized activity, the sooner you can notify the creditor.

If you find an error, CALL IMMEDIATELY !   If someone else is charging on your account, you need to stop it fast.   You could also be held liable for charges from unreported thefts.

6. Monitor Credit Report -

Go to to get a FREE copy annually of your credit report. You should review your credit report at least once a year to look for suspicious activity.

If you do spot something, alert your credit card company or the creditor immediately.   Also notify the credit reporting agency showing the incorrect information.  

7. Email Links -

Never click on a link provided in an email if you believe it to be fraudulent.   Avoid opening emails from unknown financial institutions or sweepstakes if you didn't file an entry.

Keep in mind, no financial institution will ask you to verify your information via email.

Criminals may link you to phony "official-looking" web sites to confirm your personal information. This is known as "phishing".

According to Wikipedia:

"Phishing" is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

8. Opt Out -

Opt out of credit card solicitations. (Take your name off marketers' hit lists)

You can opt out of credit card solicitations by calling 1-888-567-8688 to have your name removed from direct marketing lists.

You can do this online at, which is the official consumer credit reporting industry opt-out website for the three credit companies:

Trans Union

9. Safeguard Your Social Security Number -

Protect your Social Security number.

Never carry your Social Security card or anything else with your social security number on it in your wallet or purse, along with your driver’s license.

Do not put your Social Security number or driver’s license number on any checks you may write.

Only give out your Social Security number when absolutely necessary.

10. Read Privacy Policies -

Find out what company privacy policies are (know who you are dealing with).

When being asked for your Social Security number or driver’s license number, find out what the company’s privacy policy is.

Inquire as to why it is being asked for.

Ask who has access to your number.

Ask if you can arrange for them not to share your information with anyone else.


As we've discussed, there are a lot of things you can do to prevent Identity Theft and protect your personal financial health.   The main thing to do is BE AWARE !

Christmas time is when the thieves have more victims to choose from because shoppers often get lax and store clerks are hurried.   Please have a safe and secure holiday by protecting your identification documents and financial cards.




Deanna Early is the # 1 ranked Mortgage Loan Originator in Franklin County, Virginia as scored by the ActiveRain real estate site.   She is a Nationally Licensed Mortgage Loan Originator located near Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia.   She does both purchase and refinance loans throughout the state of Virginia.   She is a residential loan originator for American National Bank and Trust.   She provides home mortgage loans, construction loans and lot loans as well as second or vacation home loans and investor financing.

Please visit her website at   and learn more in the Virginia Mortgage Blog

You can contact her for your financing needs at (540) 721-2349 or by email at  ""

The views expressed in this post are mine only and do not necessarily reflect the views of American National Bank and Trust Company.   Any scenarios presented are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to refer to or represent any actual or specific clients, negotiations or financial transactions.


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Joe Petrowsky
Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709 - Manchester, CT
Your Mortgage Consultant for Life

Good morning Deanna. Your post should be featured, it is very well done and the information should be read by all in AR land.

Dec 20, 2015 06:07 PM #1
TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc.
Complete Home Inspections, Inc. - Brentwood, TN
Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029

 Good morning Deanna. I have to agree with Joe that this should be a featured post. There is a lot of great information here.

Dec 20, 2015 06:41 PM #2
Amanda S. Davidson
Amanda Davidson Real Estate Group Brokered By eXp Realty - Alexandria, VA
Alexandria Virginia Homes For Sale

Deanna, having been a victim of identity theft in 2011 I can say each of these tips is so important. I hope this gets featured. So many would benefit from reading this post.

Dec 20, 2015 10:02 PM #3
Sharon Lee
Sharon Lee's Virtual Assistance - Jonesborough, TN
Retired and loving life

Deanna-Sadly this info is needed even more in todays world. The one thing you mentioned that I hadn't thought about is the credit card solicitations we get.

Dec 21, 2015 06:51 PM #4
Sharon Lee
Sharon Lee's Virtual Assistance - Jonesborough, TN
Retired and loving life

I will from now on.


Dec 22, 2015 04:03 AM #5
Pamela Cendejas
Second Self Virtual Assistance - Kingman, AZ
Second Self Virtual Assistance (928) 692-3235

You've listed several items I was aware of and a few that I wasn't aware of.  Thank you for the lesson.

Dec 22, 2015 06:23 AM #6
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DEANNA EARLY - - ( NMLS # 268590 )

Highest Ranked Mortgage Loan Originator Virginia
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