AG Hood: Resolve to protect yourself in 2011

From the MS Attorney General's Office

JACKSON, MS - Attorney General Jim Hood advises Mississippians to add some extra safety resolutions to their New Year's List for 2011.

"Just as we make sure to prioritize our physical shape each new year, we need to do the same with our financial shape and personal identity," said Attorney General Hood.

Here are some of the Attorney General's top suggestions for becoming a smarter consumer in 2011:

P - Proactively monitor your credit report. Order your credit report at least once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) and review them for inaccurate or suspicious material. Check credit and debit card sales and return receipts against your monthly bills and statements, and report any problems to the credit card issuer promptly.

R - Refuse to be a victim by not responding to unsolicited emails. Typically, financial institutions will not ask a consumer to provide, update or confirm sensitive information by email, or initiate a phone call asking you to provide, update or confirm sensitive information. Before responding to any request for account or personal information, consumers should contact their financial institutions directly to ensure the request is valid. Do not email financial information, and do not click on a link or open an attachment from an unknown source.

O - Only carry the identification cards, credit cards, and debit cards that you absolutely need. Do not carry your Social Security (SS) card. Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary, and always ask if you can use another form of identification.

T - Take care of your personal information, and make a habit of shredding personal documents. Place passwords on your credit card, debit card, bank, phone, or any other utility accounts you have. Avoid using easily available information such as your mother's maiden name, the last four digits of your Social Security number or your birth date.

Secure all personal information in your home or office. Shred any documents containing personal information before throwing it away. This includes receipts you receive when purchasing goods or services.

"I hope consumers will take advantage of the free shredding event coming up in February (see attached information) that our office sponsors," said Attorney General Hood. "It's a great way to kick-start your resolution to PROTECT yourself and your identity."

E - Examine businesses/websites for policies and safety indicators. Research the seller and the site. Be familiar with the rules and policies of each business and website. Check feedback for particular sellers when applicable. Be wary of sites that have grammatical errors, broken links, or other signs that may indicate lack of trustworthiness. Look for safety measures on the website.

When making a payment online, look for signs the site is secure. Examples include "https" in the address line, and the padlock symbol.

Finally, regularly update your computer's security, including anti-virus and anti-spyware programs.

C - Check into companies' policies on returns, layaway programs, etc. Save your receipts for returns and exchanges.

T - Tune into common scams. Educating yourself is the best way to protect yourself. More tips and information on common scams can be found at

"Our office wishes you and yours a happy and safe New Year," said Attorney General Hood. "Please contact us and let us know how we can serve you in 2011."