Giving out personal information isn't part of the bargain.
Almost everywhere we shop-from the toy store at the mall to an online linen warehouse-we are asked to provide personal information. Some stores ask for a zip code or phone number at the checkout. Online sites may demand more, including your mailing and e-mail address, phone number, or even your Social Security number.
The quandary: the more information about you floating around in marketing databases and in cyberspace, the more vulnerable you are to identity theft, one of the fastest growing financial crimes. According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 27 million Americans have been victims of ID theft in the past year, suffering $5 billion in out-of-pocket expenses.
Some ways to shop more securely: WHEN A CLERK ASKS for unnecessary personal information, just say no. Clerks may ask for certain identification as a safeguard when you write a check or use a credit card. But when a store asks for a phone number or zip code, even when you're paying cash, that goes beyond what's necessary.
NEVER VOLUNTEER PERSONAL INFORMATION about your house, kids, job, mortgage, or credit lines. Even little pieces of information like the names of your pets can be entered into that giant computer looking to build a profile of you, according to Marc Eisenson, a consumer consultant in Elizaville, New York.
CALL 1-888-5-OPTOUT to have your name removed from the lists that the major credit bureaus sell to lenders and others.
RIP UP AND DESTROY all pre-approved credit offers you receive in the mail.
FINALLY, CAREFULLY check your credit card and bank statements. Anyone with access to your card number can make online and telephone purchases with it.