To prevent identity theft, you need to be aware of the many ways your information is vulnerable while using the internet or with traditional postal mail.
Domestic and international thieves take personal identification from millions of people each year. Sometimes this is in the form of financial information, but sometimes crooks take personal information and use it to obtain health care, credit cards, rent property, or purchase vehicles.
Carefully review your financial statements from your bank and credit card companies at least monthly. Even better, get in the habit of reviewing your online banking, credit card and other statements weekly or more frequently.
Of course, be sure you are on a secure server when doing so (more about this later) .By examining these statements frequently, you can stay on top of any issues and see if someone is making charges or tampering with your accounts.
Check your credit report from all three reporting bureaus to ensure there are no unusual entries or misinformation connected with you and your Social Security number.
You can check these reports at no charge once a year at www.freecreditreport.com. To learn more information about your credit reports and the companies who track them, click here: Credit Reporting Bureaus
Guard Your Personal Documents
Begin by using an in-home safe for personal documents, such as Social Security cards, a list of credit cards, or other personal information. Be sure to lock up your wallet or purse while you are work, if possible.
Always leaving your Social Security card and any other identification that may use that number at home in a safe place. Make a copy of your card and block out all but the last four digits if you need to carry something to remember those numbers.
Rather than leave outgoing mail in your mail box, take your letters to the post office or give them directly to your carrier. Shred mail that includes your personal information, financial data, and account numbers.
This includes credit card offers, bank statements, and anything else that has identifying information on it. You can be extra careful by shredding outer envelopes, as well, that include your name and address.
Also, you can prevent identity theft by opting out of prescreened credit card offers. You can do this at 1-888-567-8688 or go to optoutprescreen.com.
Only Provide Personal Data if it is Essential
When companies and organizations request your personal information, ask why they need it. Never give out more information than is absolutely necessary – and especially when it involves your social security number and other financial data.
For example, doctors' offices typically ask you to provide your Social Security number. Do not do this unless it is absolutely necessary, If it is not needed for filing your insurance or some other legitimate reason, then do not give your number.
Watch for Email Scams to Prevent Identity Theft
When you are online, do not give out personal information unless you initiate the contact. Criminals use “phishing” tactics to entice people to provide all sorts of data. They send emails to your inbox, often use your name and provide links for you to click on. These links give them additional access to your information.
Some of these emails appear to come from legitimate sources. If you are unsure, go to the company's website or call customer service.
Always use a secure website when making online purchases. Before you buy anything, check your browser to see if a small lock icon visible. Also, secure sites have the letters "https://" at the beginning of web address at the top of your screen. If you do not see one or both of these indicators, do not enter your credit card information.
Don't overshare on social networking sites. For example, you shouldn't announce that you will be out of town; instead, talk about your trip after you return. If you use the name of your dog as a challenge question on financial websites, then you shouldn't post photos of the animal along with its name. Someone can use that information to gain access to your accounts.
When you are upgrading your electronic equipment, dispose of computers, cell phones, and other mobile devices properly. Hard drives and phones should be wiped clean and taken back to default settings.
Always use anti-virus or other security software on personal computers, laptops and tablets.
Only go online over secure wireless networks. Public networks in coffee shops, libraries, and other places may not be secure, so avoid sending financial information, in particular, over those types of networks.
For more tips on keeping your information safe and secure, click here: Prevent Identity Theft.