Identity theft affects millions of people every year, but there are several simple things you can do to help protect yourself.
- Shred your bills, receipts, financial statements or any record with your name address or birthday with a crosscut shredder.
- Review your bank statements, annual social security earnings statement and your annual credit report for abnormal activity or changes.
- Your wallet and purse are a big target for thieves. Empty your wallet of all extra credit cards, social security cards, birth certificate, passport, identification cards you don’t need on a weekly basis, as well as receipts and credit card statements.
- Be careful using an ATM’s or prepaid phone card. “Shoulder surfers” can get your “pin” and get access to your accounts.
- Protect your mail. Identity thieves are always on the lookout for incoming mail just sitting in your mailbox. Have your checks delivered to the bank or pick your checks up at the bank. Do not put checks in the mail from your home mailbox. Drop them off at a U.S. Mailbox or the U.S. Post Office. Get your mail as soon as possible. If you are going away, arrange for a trusted friend to pick up your mail.
- Always log out of websites you shop or bank on.
- Erase financial programs and stored information from your computer’s hard drive and your old cell phone before you dispose of them.
- Create strong passwords that use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, and avoid using the same password and username for multiple accounts.
- Cancel all credit cards that you do not use or have not used in 6 months. Thieves use these very easily—open credit is a prime target.
- Do not put your telephone numbers on your checks.
- In conjunction with a credit card sale, do not put your address, telephone number, or driver’s license number on the statement.
- Make a list of all your credit card account numbers and bank account numbers with customer service phone numbers and keep it a safe place. (Do not keep it on the hard drive of your computer if you are connected to the Internet.)
While Identity theft is a growing and serious problem, you will never completely eliminate the risk. These are a few suggestions that will help you significantly reduce your exposure and risk to Identity theft.