By Staff Report

*I will file my tax return as early as possible to minimize the risk of becoming a victim of tax filing and tax refund fraud.

*I will not provide my social security number, financial information nor personal information unless I am 100 percent certain of who I am giving it to and why, nor carry my social security card with me unless I intend to use it.

*I will order free copies of my credit reports at www.annualcredit report.com or call 1-877-332-8228 to review them for accuracy and errors, and consider freezing my credit file, which is free to Florida seniors age 65 and older, and to victims of identity theft.

*I will thoroughly research a business to ensure it is properly registered or licensed by the state or local government, and check out its complaint history before entering into a contract and issuing payment.

*I will read and understand any contract that I sign, and receive a complete signed copy.

*I will commit to a monthly budget, save more, spend less and pay down my debts.

*I will shred documents that contain my personal identifying information.

*I will always assume that an unsolicited email or text message is a possible scam, and never click the link or links attached.

*I will safeguard my personal and financial information, and regularly check my bank account and credit card statements for any bogus activity.

*I will check my medical, insurance and financial records for discrepancies and possible fraud, and keep a medical journal or detailed record of all medical services received.

*I will not jump into an online dating site without learning about the privacy policies, cancellation clauses and refund policies; nor will I fall for false claims of love and companionship when tied to requests for money.

*I will screen my incoming phone calls to avoid telemarketing scams that may try to obtain money and/or my personal information.

*I will consider registering with the federal and state Do Not Call lists.

*I will protect my computer with firewalls, up-to-date security and anti-virus software.

*I will protect my Smartphone by logging out of apps, clear my browser history, password protect my home screen and update the operating software.

*I will never share personal or financial information over public Wi-Fi networks.

*I will use a credit card when shopping by phone, television or online, and dispute the charge within 60 days from the receipt of the bill if I’m unsatisfied with a product or services.

*I will be wary of fake checks linked to winning prizes or lotteries; work-at-home opportunities or employment; or alleged overpayment for something I may be selling, and will never wire money back to someone who sent me a check.

*I will educate my kids about online safety, set restrictions and guidelines regarding sites they visit, and monitor their online activity.

*I will visit www.onguardonline.gov for helpful resources and tips for myself and my kids about identity theft and online safety.

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Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.