Identity theft is when someone else steals the right information about you and does things to make others think he is you. One of the main goals of this crime is to get access to your credit cards, debit cards, and bank account in order to steal from you. Other times identity thieves will open new credit lines in your name, charge them up and then never pay them. And another form of identity theft involves using your social security number to efile federal taxes in order to claim your federal refund before you have had the chance to file.
The anonymous nature of the internet has made it much easier for identity thieves to steal and use your personal information. Many of our interactions these days are linked to a number such as a social security number or credit card number. We are so accustomed to using these numbers that we sometimes are too relaxed in protecting them. This is where the identity thief makes his living… thriving off of your unintentional mistakes in protecting your personal information.
How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
You can practice good identity theft protection by taking your own proactive measures to prevent it. The objective is to protect information that is potentially valuable to an identity thief. By being more careful with your sensitive, private information you will make it much harder for a thief to steal your identity. Start implementing these DIY ID theft tips today.
Protecting Your Documents
Protecting your documents means safely storing information that is either on paper or in electronic form. It also means destroying paper documents that you no longer need. Don’t let old bills, documents with personal information, credit card statements, and bank statements pile up because this makes them difficult to dispose of properly. Invest in a shredder that destroys documents through a crosscutting fashion. Crosscut keeps a wouldbe identity thief from easily reassembling the shreds.
Securing your Phone Against Identity Theft
So many people these days are carrying around smartphones and iPads. Some use these devices to store all sorts of personal and financial information. Even a traditional cell phone (the non“smart” type) can be of value to an identity thief because of the stored phone numbers.
The real danger is when you lose one of these devices and you will at some time in your life.
Any electronic mobile device that you use with sensitive information on it needs to be secured with a password. Check the instructions that came with your electronic devices and follow the instructions for securing them.
Identity Theft Protection and Your Credit Cards
If an identity thief has stolen your credit card number, the obvious indication of this will be when you see fraudulent activity on your credit card statement. Unfortunately, many do not look at their statements closely. Make sure to carefully review your monthly statements and look for any fraudulent charges. If you see a charge that you did not make you should contact your credit card or banking company and notify them of the credit card fraud immediately.
What happens if you lose your wallet? You should only carry the credit cards you need and lock up the other ones. Know which ones you are carrying and have the phone numbers for them in a convenient place. In the event you lose your wallet or purse you will need to contact all of the credit card and banks immediately to let them know.
Always cover your PIN number when purchasing an item at the cash register and using your debit card. Remember that debit cards these days are almost like credit cards except they are linked to your checking account. An identity thief could quickly empty your account with that debit card and your PIN number.
Protecting Your Mail
Most residential mail is unsecured and waiting for you to pick it up when you get home. There is really nothing to stop an identity thief from getting your mail prior to your arrival. Obviously, you should pick up your mail as soon as possible or consider getting a post office box (not everyone you do business with will accept a post office box address). But you should go one step further and track your regular mail from those whom you do business with.
If you find that you are not getting your regular mail then you need to find out why. It could be that an identity thief is grabbing your mail without your knowledge. Never go on vacation without getting a trusted friend to pick up your mail while you are gone. Another option is to ask the postal service to hold your mail at the post office until you return from your trip.
Online Identity Theft Protection
A common way for identity thieves to steal your credit card number, password, and other personal information is through phishing. Phishing is when you are asked through the email to verify some information like your password or credit card number on file. You are directed to a web page that looks exactly like the web page you do business with except it isn’t. Then, identity thieves trap the password and other information you enter and use it.
The best way to tell if a web page is used for phishing is to look at the URL. It should point to the legitimate website of the business it is representing. If you cannot tell that way, then either don’t go to the site or call the company’s support number to express your concern.
Be careful of the websites you visit. Shady websites sometimes introduce spyware which can capture your information. Always create passwords that are difficult to hack by using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
On Guard When on the Phone
The final way to protect against identity theft is to never give your credit card number over the telephone unless it was you who called the other company. Always be suspicious if someone calls you to make an offer and asks for your credit card number. You never know who really is on the other end of that telephone line.
Have you Considered Identity Theft Protection Services
Taking your own preventative measures is a great start to preventing identity theft in this first place. But in this day in age with our
personal information spread over so many places it’s still possible that an identity thief could get a hold of your information. That is why we recommend that you look into enhanced identity theft protection from a professional provider as well. The two most popular providers are LifeLock and Identity Guard.
LifeLock® is the most popular identity theft protection provider and many people have seen their commercials on TV or heard them on the radio. Their CEO, Todd Davis, likes to give out his own personal social security number as proof of his belief in the services that his company offers. They provide great coverage at an affordable price. To read more about their service check out our LifeLock Review and if you are planning on ordering you’ll want to make use of our exclusive discount by using our LifeLock promo code.
Next to LifeLock®, Identity Guard also receives top marks for being an all-around excellent identity theft protection service provider. They apply advanced tracking technology to monitor your credit files and provide you with a number of important software enhancements that help keep the personal information in your computer secure. Combined with an excellent reputation and competitive pricing when using the Identity Guard discount, you should be sure to look over our Identity Guard review before choosing a provider.
Credit Monitoring Services
Sometimes identity theft protection services are confused with credit monitoring services. Indeed they share a lot of commonalities. Credit monitoring is almost always included in all identity theft protection plans. Some companies like, Experian and Credit Report specialize in only credit monitoring.
Usually credit monitoring does not include all of the additional benefits that some identity theft protection services may include. Things like identity recovery insurance and monitoring databases for your personal information. Still many find credit monitoring to provide exactly what they need. So it is up to you to investigate credit monitoring companies to check and see if they offer what you need.
Protect Your Identity Now
The most important thing for you to do is to take action now. Start following the DIY ID theft tips above right away. You may also want to sign up for professional identity theft protection today for the additional peace of mind that it provides. To help you decide which service is best for you, please reference our Identity Theft Protection Reviews.