Identity Protection

How You Can Protect Your Identity

Identity theft was practically unheard of 40 years ago, but it is currently becoming a nationwide epidemic. Once limited to sifting through trashcans, thieves can now steal credit card numbers as they walk by you on the street. It may seem like there is no hope for battling this problem, but there are steps you can take to keep identity theft out of your life.

Shred It

Most identity thieves do not sift through trashcans anymore, but there are still a few who are willing to get down and dirty in the name of their trade. Shred all papers with personal information. Pre-approved credit offers in particular should be shredded for security.

Guard It

Smart thieves don’t have to wait for you to pitch personal information; they just steal it out of your mailbox. Invest in a locking mailbox, particularly if your mail arrives while you are away from home. When using your ATM card, make sure you shield your pin from prying eyes by standing so your body blocks the view of people who might be around you.

Review Statements

Taking the time to review credit card statements can seem tedious, but it is necessary. Thieves don’t always open new accounts; sometimes they just use the ones you already like. The fraud doesn’t always start with large charges, particularly if they have obtained your number without getting your card. Quite often, it starts with a small charge that you are not likely to notice. If that goes through without a problem, then they will start charging a lot more. Examine statements closely for any charge you did not make.

Smart Passwords

Don’t use your pet’s name or your child’s birthdate for passwords. Information like this is easily figured out, leaving you vulnerable. Mix letters, numbers, and symbols in your password. If you have to write them down, store them safely in a locked drawer. Never allow work computers to save passwords, and don’t visit banking sites when using public networks.

Trust No One

Identity thieves are experts at gaining your trust, and they aren’t always strangers. The sad fact is that most identity theft is actually committed by people close to you who have access to your home. Keep your credit card information filed securely away, and don’t leave papers with personal information lying around. When contacted unexpectedly by one of your creditors, assume that it is a phishing scheme. Do not provide them with any of your personal information. Instead, call the company back using the number on your bill to handle any issues.

The Social Security Number

There was a time when people carried their Social Security cards in their wallet, but it is never a good idea in modern society. If your wallet were lost, would-be thieves would have all the information they need between your driver’s license and that card. If your state lists the number on the card, ask that yours not be listed.

Do not provide your number or your children’s numbers to any party that does not have a legitimate need for the number. The only agencies that have a need for the number are financial institutions and your employer. Doctors also commonly ask for this information in case the medical bills are not paid. However, your child’s school does not need the number, and neither does a contractor who is doing work for you. The best idea is to keep the card itself locked up at home where it will be safe.

Pull Reports

Pull your credit reports on a regular basis to look for suspicious activity. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the reporting companies each year. This means that you can actually receive three credit reports a year, and they should all be reviewed for errors, fraudulent accounts and suspicious activity.

Insurance

There are several companies currently offering insurance against identity theft. Whether you want to invest in this insurance depends on how much legwork you are willing to do on your own. If you are extremely busy and don’t have time to monitor your credit reports, then they can be an incredible asset. Choose one that will help you deal with the damage if you should become a victim of identity theft.

There are many steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft. This crime continues to rise, and the thieves are constantly developing new tactics. Protect yourself by checking credit reports regularly and guarding your information. Taking these steps will help you protect your information and avoid the misery of identity theft.