Ten Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

This is a little different from my usual postings but since Identity theft can affect all of us, I thought it was appropriate to share these suggestions with you. This post is based on an article I wrote a couple of years ago on by business blog:

Identity theft is a serious crime that can destroy your life. In order to protect yourself, it is important to guard your personal information. I was reminded of this not too long ago when I received a letter from my former health insurance carrier informing me that one of their company laptops was stolen with all my personal information in it.

Do you know how to safeguard your personal information so that you don’t fall victim to identity fraud? Here are 10 steps you can take to protect yourself from becoming the next victim:

1. Get your credit report and fix any errors. The reports are free once a year. You can get the reports from any of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax; Experian and TransUnion. It’s a good idea to space out the reports from each company so you can check your credit status a few times a year.

2. Protect your Social Security Number. Give it out only when absolutely necessary. Except for banks, employers or other government institutions, you are not legally bound to give your Social Security Number to private businesses. Ask that they use a different number for identification purposes.

3. Monitor your monthly credit and bank statements very carefully. Check for any discrepancies and correct any errors immediately.

4. Shred everything. That means EVERTHING. Reconciled statements, pre-approved credit applications, bills or anything that has information on you should be shredded. Get a criss-cross shredder instead of a straight shredder. Thieves can and do rummage through the trash and take the time to put together straight-shredded documents.

5. Don’t leave a paper trail. There are still a lot of companies that have not stopped printing your whole account number and expiration date on receipts. Keep all credit, gas or ATM receipts in a safe place until you get home and remember to take them out of your wallet or purse.

6. Speaking of a paper trail, clean out your car. Don’t leave your important papers in there. Either take them out or lock the glove compartment or trunk.

7. When you sign the back of your credit or debit cards write, “check photo ID” in the signature block. Also, some banks now offer an option for a photo to be put on the card. If your bank offers a photo ID, get one put on your card.

8. Put your mail in the Post Office Box. Mail left in your home mail box for the carrier can be stolen and used by thieves to get your personal information.

9. Shop secure online. Make sure all charges are handled through an encrypted mode or through a secure site. Also, look for either the BBB online seal or the Trust-e symbol before purchasing.

10. Know how your personal information is used. Make sure that the sites you shop on have a privacy policy – and read it. If you have questions about the policy, don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation.

Bonus 1! Keep your personal information private. Never give your Social Security Number, bank account numbers or credit/debit card numbers to telephone or email solicitors. Some thieves are tricky and will send emails that look like legitimate sites (such as Paypal) in order to garner your information.

Bonus 2! Consider joining an identity theft protection program, such as LifeLock, which offers proactive ID theft protection. These services track your credit and identity, scans for threats and if you are ever a victim, they help you clear up identity theft issues.

For more information on protecting your identity and Social Security number go to Social Security online.

Next week, I’ll post ten things to do if you do fall victim to identity fraud. In the meantime, if you have any other tips for protecting oneself from identity theft, feel free to leave a comment, I’d love to hear them.

(Linked to Top Ten Tuesday and Works for me Wednesday.)

Comments

  1. Helpful ideas. I never knew there were 10 things to do. Have you tried lifelock? I am thinking about signing up.
    susan…recently posted…4 Baking Tips to Make Your Time in the Kitchen a Little Easier WFMWMy Profile

    • SimpleCatholic says:

      Yes. We were members of Lifelock until my husband lost his job. Now that he’s back working, we are planning to sign up again soon.

  2. Great list! Thanks!
    Colleen…recently posted…Sabbath Moments – Gods Loving MercyMy Profile

  3. Identity theft is an absolute nightmare. I speak from experience. It requires literally hundreds of hours to sort out. Take these precautions!

  4. Also if you use Facebook, be careful what personal information you put on the site. Don’t put answers to your “secret questions” accidentally like your elementary school name or your best teacher, etc.

    Or at LEAST spell/style it different. In other words, if you really must write your first grade teacher and her name was Jane Smith, just put Miss Smith on Facebook. Then for your bank account, you can write “Jane Smith”.
    Charles @ CreditDonkey…recently posted…5 Benefits to Credit Cards with 0 Fraud LiabilityMy Profile

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