Identify theft is the fastest growing crime today. It can ruin your credit, wreck your finances, damage your reputation and in extreme cases, land you in jail. Since identity theft is such a lucrative enterprise, criminals are constantly on the prowl looking for easy targets. Unfortunately, it is not possible to prevent it entirely and the only way to remain safe is to be on your guard at all times.
So here are 5 tips to help you prevent your identity from being stolen:
Tips to Prevent Identity Theft
Your Personal Information
Since identify theft involves the fraudulent use of your personal information, such as your credit card number and Social Security number, never give this information to anyone you do not know or cannot trust. When you must give the information, such as when making an online purchase, make sure that the person or website handling it can be trusted and that the information will be used only for the purpose that has been stated.
Your Credit And Debit Cards
Credit and debit cards are the favorite target of scammers and fraudsters. Therefore, you must use them with utmost caution. Do not carry all your cards in your wallet. When you receive a new credit card, sign it immediately. If you lose a credit card, inform the credit card company immediately and have it blocked. Shop with your credit card only at reputable stores and watch the cashiers when they are handling your card. When paying for online purchases or payments, make sure to do it only through an SSL connection.
Your Passwords And PINs
We use passwords and PINS to access our emails, bank accounts, ATMs and social media sites. One of the easiest ways criminals can steal your identity is by getting access to your passwords and PINS. Do not write them down or save them in your smart phone. Memorize them. Change your passwords frequently. When creating a new password, use a combination of alphabets and numbers. Avoid using words and numbers that can be easily guessed, such as your mother’s name or your phone number.
The best trick is to use a sentence you remember. Take “a penny saved, is a penny earned” for example. Your password could take the first letter of each word, making it: “ApSi1pe”.
Your Snail Mails
Banks, credit card companies and utility companies still send a lot of documents by mail – the traditional way. These may include bank statements, insurance forms, credit charge receipts, expired charge cards and pre-approved credit offers. Collect your mail as soon as it arrives in your mail box. Do not leave the documents lying around anywhere in your home. Securely and permanently destroy all the documents that you do not need using a shredder. If you are going away on holiday, call the postal service to request a vacation hold.
Your Knowledge of Identity Theft
It can be hard to imagine someone stealing your identity, but it happens daily. So educate yourself on the different ways that criminals can steal your identity. For example, did you know that a criminal can use your Social Security number to steal your tax refund or apply for a job?
The best ways to catch identity theft early (which makes the damage done less than being oblivious) is to review your credit through your free credit report and to also monitor your credit score. Doing both of these on a regular basis can help you catch any odd activity quickly.
Becoming a victim of identity theft is not someone anyone should have to go through. But it does happen, so it’s best that you take the steps needed to limit the chances of it happening to you. Doing so will allow you to sleep at night.
Have you ever been a victim of identity theft?