Precautions To Help Avoid Having Your Identity Stolen

In October 2, 2014

Identity theft occurs when a criminal steals your personal information, such as your social security number, address, date of birth and other information, and uses it without your permission. Identity theft is a big problem which can lead to credit problems, lawsuits and financial disasters. While these issues can usually be corrected, the time and effort it takes can be overwhelming. The best thing to do is to protect yourself so that it does not occur. Taking these extra precautions today can save you time, effort and money in the future.

  • Safely Stash Important Documents – There is seldom a reason to carry your social security card in your wallet. The same holds true for your birth certificate, marriage certificate and other vital records. Keep these critical identity documents in a safe deposit box or other secure location to make certain they do not fall into the wrong hands.
  • Avoid Mailing Checks – In the past, it was almost a necessity to mail checks to pay your bills and purchase items from mail order companies. However, with secure online payments and banking, you can avoid putting your financial data “in the mail” and at possible risk.
  • Use Caution on the Phone – Think hard about who you are dealing with before you give out bank information, social security numbers and other personal information by phone. While providing such information on the phone is necessary in some cases, you want to use caution and make smart choices. One rule of thumb is to only provide such information if you initiate the phone call to a reputable business.
  • Read Privacy Statements – Most companies who handle personal information, especially those you deal with on a regular basis, will provide a privacy statement that shows you what information they have and how they use it. These are very important and understanding the contents can save you a lot of hassle.
  • Keep Your Trash in Order – Do not just throw away bank statements, credit card bills or anything that has your account numbers printed on it. Taking a short while to shred these documents first can prevent an identity thief from finding information in your trash.
  • Keep Tabs on Your Accounts – Check your bank accounts online or by phone regularly. That way, if there is ever a problem you catch it early and prevent a small problem from becoming a big one.
  • Be Password Smart – Choose hard-to-guess passwords for online accounts. Using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols (if allowed) provides heightened security. Change your passwords frequently—especially if you have a reason to worry they may be compromised.
  • Check Your Credit – Check your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus frequently to make certain that there is nothing out of line on any of your records. This is one way that many people first notice that their identities have been compromised in the first place.

While these precautions are a great place to start protecting your identity, they are only the beginning. Check out the ProtectMyID blog site for more ideas. Your financial institution, the major credit bureaus and the United States Department of Justice are all excellent resources too. Spend some time learning more about identity theft and other forms of credit fraud and protect yourself!

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