Keeping your identity safe is important. If someone else is able to get their hands on your sensitive identification information, not only can they pretend to be you in all intents and purposes, but they can also take your money. The anonymity of this crime makes many people feel helpless to prevent it.
There is no need to be hopeless though. There are some easy ways that you can keep your identity safe, starting today, that can make a world of difference in protecting your information. Here are the Top 10 ID theft prevention tips that you can implement today to help to make your identity safer.
1. Don’t take extra credit or debit cards with you every day
Do you have one primary account that you use for spending? Then keep that one card with you and lock up whatever other ones you may have in a safe location at home where thieves won’t think to look. Not only does this make it harder for an identity thief to get their hands on all of your accounts, but it will also improve your spending habits.
2. Crosscut shredders are a must have in your home
We all like to joke about the guy who got his tie caught in the shredder, but those old shredders really don’t do anything. Straight line cut paper is easy to remove from your trash that is curbside and can be easily taped together by an identity thief. Look for a crosscut shredder that spits out tiny little pieces of paper. This will discourage an identity thief to no end.
3. Recycle Your Shredded Information
Taking your personal papers that have been shredded and dumping them into a huge recycling bin full of paper eliminates the curbside thief. Mixed up with literally tons of other paper, your identity simply gets lost in the mix.
4. Never carry your Social Security card
The only reason why you need a Social Security card with you is to provide a copy of it to a new employer, and even then you could make the copy at home. Other companies may request your Social Security card for verification of who you are, but you can request alternative methods of identification.
5. Use one time credit card numbers while online shopping
Many credit card companies offer an online shopping service where they will assign your account a unique number that is good for one purchase only that you have authorized. This prevents identity thieves from getting your actual credit card number if you happen to have spyware of keylogging software inadvertently installed on your computer.
6. Don’t surf the internet without anti-virus, anti-spyware, a firewall, and anti-malware software installed.
The internet is a dangerous place thanks to the actions of a few, so to keep yourself safe while working, surfing, and playing online, be sure to have all the protective services properly installed and updated on your computer. Identity thieves have even started to create viruses that affect Apple’s O/S, so always remember that every computer you own is a potential target.
7. Keep a list of all your financial account numbers and customer service numbers in your locked away area.
If you do happen to lose your wallet or purse, or you suspect you have become the victim of identity theft, time is of the essence. By having this information easily accessible, you can simply grab your list and start making calls instead of fumbling around on the internet and through your files trying to find it after the fact.
8. Don’t give out any information to people you don’t know.
Why would someone you not know or a company you’ve never done business with need your identification information? To steal your identity, that’s why! If you don’t know who is asking for your info, don’t give it to them until you’ve verified the authenticity of their request.
9. Become aware of “phishing.”
Phishing is one of the biggest causes of identity theft around today. Identity thieves get you to give them your information through a bogus e-mail or even phone call demanding you verify your information to save an account you might have with a legitimate business. You talk to a convincing person on the phone or you get transferred to a legitimate looking website where you “verify” the info, but what you are really doing is simply handing your identity away. You haven’t won anything. Your account will not be closed. You do not ever have to give someone a password or your PIN number. Always, always, always ask questions if you are unsure!
10. Sometimes You Can Share Too Much Information
With the invention of social networking on the internet through the various websites, we tend to get very friendly with a lot of different people who we may not even know personally. All it takes for an identity thief who has friended or followed you to get into your home and take your identification information is for you to post that you’re going to be out for a few hours, that you’re headed out on vacation for a couple weeks, or that you’re in charge of the school carpool for next week.
Chances are you have pictures uploaded of your home that even show your file cabinets, safes, or lockboxes in the background behind a smiling face. Be careful about who you decide to let follow you & friend you, and then be careful about what you share with them. Without intending to do so, you could be setting yourself up for an identity theft incident and not even realize it.
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime currently in the United States, and it is growing around the world as well. You can protect yourself against identity theft easily by following these Top 10 guidelines as consistently as possible, while also looking into an identity theft protection plan that might fit your extended needs. Identity theft is a $40 billion per year problem – don’t let it cost you too.