How To Stop Identity Theft
Know how to stop identity theft from ruining your life before it happens. Identity theft cases have continued to rise since 2007 and show no signs of slowing down. The current crop of identity thieves is smarter and Internet savvy, making them more dangerous than ever. Here some a few steps you can take to guard yourself against identity theft.
- Shred instead of toss. Identity theft can occur the moment you put your trash out. Identity thieves are notorious for rummaging through someone’s garbage for bank statements, credit card receipts or any other documents containing personal information. If you don’t own a shredder, rip up your personal papers before tossing. The same goes for any pre-approved credit card offers you get in the mail.
- Protect your credit cards. Only carry two or three at a time, along with your ATM card if you think you may need it. If you use your card when dining out or shopping, pay close attention when it is being swiped. Unscrupulous clerks or waiters use small hand-held skimmers to record an unsuspecting victim’s card number and later downloads it onto their personal computer. Make copies of all of your credit and debit cards, including customer service and fraud department numbers. This will come in handy should you ever suspect identity theft.
- Exercise vigilance when using an ATM. When using an ATM, be watchful of your surroundings. Make sure that other users are standing a safe distance away from you. Many an identity theft victims had their bank accounts emptied by someone who peeked over their shoulder as they entered their PIN number. Tear up ATM receipts before tossing them in the trash, or take them with you to shred later.
- Keep your Social Security Number to yourself. Avoid carrying your social security card with you. Provide it only when necessary, like on your tax form or for employment records. Request an identification number other than your social security number be used on your driver’s license. Never give your social security number over the phone unless you are certain the requestor can be trusted. If you must divulge your social security number in public, write it down rather than stating it out loud (you never know who’s listening), and shred it afterwards.
- Be wary of emails from people you don’t know. Phishing is a form of identity theft that mimics an actual communication, usually from your bank, PayPal or eBay, stating that your account has been compromised and requesting you to log in and “verify” your account. Clicking on the link gives the identity theft scum on the other end exactly what they wanted, and you won’t know what hit you until it’s too late. If you do open a suspicious email by accident, do not click on any links.
- Memorize your passwords and PINs, rather than writing them down. Do not use the same password or PINs for all of your accounts, and try to use a combination of letters and numbers. Change your password regularly. Avoid using personal info in passwords or PINs, such as birthdates.
- Install firewall and virus protection software and keep them updated. Identity theft can occur when a computer becomes infected with password- or data-stealing virus. Most computers come equipped with their own firewall and virus protection software, and they usually automatically update as needed.