Almost everywhere I turn these days I hear about identity theft. The problem and vulnerabilities definitely exist, so how can the common citizen protect their information from being stolen and used without their authorization?
1. Get a Shredder. You want to make sure that your full name, address, birth-date, credit card number, social security number, etc does not get into the wrong hands. The best way to prevent this is to shred documents instead of throwing them directly into the trash.
Shredders are also inexpensive; especially at the beginning of the year when people desire to get their affairs in order. A couple of years ago, I was able to by an 8-sheet one for less than $30 and it still working as good as new.
2. Monitor your credit. Every year you are entitled to 3 free credit reports from each of the credit Bureaus. Each year take advantage of this free option and don’t fall for the online scams that are not FREE. Go directly to Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, Inc.
3. Stop Pre-screened Credit Offers. Have you ever read the fine print on the credit card offers? A couple of years ago, I did. Surprisingly, I found out that you can opt-out permanently, so I did. By stopping credit card solicitations from coming to your home through these pre-screened mailings you are helping to protect yourself before the problem arises.
4. Don’t give away your identity. Online spiders are always crawling so make sure that when you are typing in your information you are using a secure network. For instance:
- Password protect your wireless internet.
- Make sure the sites you buy from are security protected.
- Don’t respond to email offers that you did ask for.
- Don’t open spam.
- Don’t click on random links in your email if it looks like a person you know has been hacked. Most people don’t send links without saying anything else.
5. Secure your ATM receipts. Most ATMs will allow you to choose “no” receipt, but if you feel that getting one is necessary then properly shred it when you no longer need to use it.
6. Shred old checks or checkbooks that you don’t need. Don’t add your drivers license number to your checks that small bit of information can be a window into your wallet in more ways than one.
7. Keep a black permanent marker with you. If for some reason you need to dispose of something that has your name, birth-date, etc then just mark through your information.
8. Don’t allow your birth-date to be visible on social networking sites. I know you want everyone to know how good you look for your age; but seriously if you are concerned about identity theft, sharing less is best.
9. Guard your medical records and your children’s records, way too much information can be obtained from these documents.
10. Lastly, set up a security freeze on your account. If anyone applies for credit on your account they will not be able to do so without your consent or a long rigorous process, but keep in mind that this security freeze would also make it difficult for you you to apply for a loan as well.
In essence, just be careful. Keep and open eye and be one step ahead of a criminal. IdentityHawk is a company that offers comprehensive identity theft solutions. There is also a 30-day free trial available for new customers who are looking for identity theft protection.