Do you know about all the ways to prevent identity theft there are? Aside from the obvious like not writing your Personal Identification Number on your debit card, there are quite a few simple yet effective ways to prevent identity theft that you might not have thought of yet. Let's face it, having your identity stolen is horrible. It takes time to rebuild your reputation and credit history and there are millions of cases reported in the United States alone. Be smart about protecting your credit and identity by following some of these steps below.
1. Keep It Private
We live in a time where oversharing is common but when it comes to protecting yourself and your credit, keep it all on the hush-hush. One of the easiest ways to prevent identity theft is to keep your passwords and PINs to yourself. Also, make passwords difficult, change them periodically and use different passwords for different sites so it won’t be easy for some random person to figure out. Using your social security number, birthday or pet’s name might be easy to remember, but it can be easily linked back to you and used against you.
2. Look for Security
I love shopping online because you can do it anytime of the day or night and you can score some pretty sweet deals while you’re at it. The main drawback to online shopping, besides having to pay for shipping, is that there’s the possibility that you could be shopping on an unsecure site or if the site gets hacked, your personal information can be stolen. Only purchase from reputable sites and get in the habit of double checking your statements if you don’t do so already to ensure all the activity is yours.
3. Lock It up
Do you have a safe place to keep all of your important documents? I’m not talking about an old shoebox, but more like a safe or other type of storage that can be locked up. It might seem like keeping your bank statements and other personal information locked away is going overboard, but it really isn’t! There are some sheisty people out there who would love to get their hands on your information and start opening up credit card accounts, utility accounts and even get medical treatment using your health insurance.
4. Destroy All Evidence
In order to prevent identity theft, in addition to locking up your personal information you’ll want to shred receipts, credit card offers and applications, bank statements, medical documents and old debit and credit cards. The FTC also recommends destroying the labels on your prescriptions before you throw them away so your private health information doesn’t get in the wrong hands.
5. Wise up to Wi-Fi
Free wi-fi is a wonderful thing, just remember to ensure that your activity and information is secure before you start shopping or online banking. An encrypted website is good, but a secure wireless network is better. Any and all info that is sent to and from that site is secure on an encrypted website, but if you’re on a secure wireless network, all of your info on that network is protected.
6. Keep an Eye out on Email
Criminals are clever and can easily compose a seemingly safe email that we might be curious about, but we’ve gotta resist the urge. Don’t download anything, click on links or open any files from anyone you don’t know. There’s also the chance that someone you know got their email hacked and you’re receiving spam from them. Most of the times you’ll recognize when it’s spam, but if you see some weird or suspicious looking emails, don’t click on anything and let the person whose email it is know about it.
7. Be Mindful of Your Mail
Although we do a lot of business online, we still get paper bills, credit card offers and other documents in the mail. Empty your mailbox out daily and drop off any mail you’re sending out at the post office or mail collection boxes. If you’re going to be away from home for a few days or more, ask the post office to hold your mail so you don’t have a bunch of mail piling up which not only makes it known that no one is home but also gives thieves an opportunity to go through your mail.
You can never be too careful these days. There are people out there who support themselves and their shopping habit through identity theft so why risk damaging the credit you worked so hard to build? These tips on identity theft aren’t anything new, but they work. Take these extra steps to protect your personal information and protect your identity.