Recently, I became a statistic. Like so many other people, my identity was stolen.
Luckily, I figured it out before the thief was able to purchase anything through the Amazon account they targeted.
But despite not losing any money, the incident still left a bad taste in my mouth. When I thought about it afterward, I realized part of my irritation was because I had made the classic mistake.
I thought identity theft could never happen to me. Except it did.
Even though I can’t change what happened, it got me thinking about how I can keep it from happening again. Here are a few things I’m going to do to help prevent identity theft.
1. Shred Documents
Don’t throw away your old tax returns, invoices or other important paperwork. Invest in a crosscut shredder and run these documents through it instead. You can purchase one for around $35, making it an affordable way to deter identity theft.
If your identity is stolen, the amount of damage the perpetrator could do is staggering. Your information could be used to steal your money and ruin your finances.
Costs of repairing your credit afterward could run into the thousands. In addition, correcting everything could take years as new charges pop up from time to time.
Rather than tossing junk mail that has no appeal for you, shred it as well. Otherwise, criminals may use this information in much the same way.
2. Protect Your Information to Prevent Identity Theft
When divulging personal information to others, use discretion. Only give it out to those who truly need it. Otherwise, guard it carefully.
This advice does not apply solely to your social security number. You must also protect your birthdate, telephone number, address and any other information that labels you. There are criminals sophisticated enough to use your date of birth and address to figure out your social security number.
If you receive a phone call from someone who says they are from your bank, or other agency, asking for information by phone, don’t rattle it off immediately. This is information they should already have. That means most likely they are trying to scam you to steal your information.
Put your sensitive information somewhere secure. Keep files locked and don’t leave anything out where curious eyes may be tempted to take advantage of it.
Consider getting a locking mailbox, especially if you are away from home often. You should also pay attention to when your bills come each month.
If you do not receive a bill you were expecting, call your creditor to find out if one was sent. Not receiving a bill could be a sign that a thief may have taken your bill to steal your identity.
3. Safeguard Electronic Data
Safeguard your electronic information to help prevent identity theft. There are several ways to do this.
One way is to create strong, complex passwords for all of your electronic devices. Change them often and do not give them to anyone. Don’t allow passwords to be saved automatically on any of your computers or phones.
Another way to guard your identity is to put firewalls in place. You can also use virus-detection software to keep your information from falling into the wrong hands.
Third, do not open any suspicious correspondence you receive over the internet on any electronic device. This is how criminals phish for your information so they can steal your identity.
Although I became a statistic and fell victim to identity theft, it doesn’t have to happen to you. Use these tips to help prevent identity theft and keep your information secure.
Have you ever become prey to an identity thief? If so, what steps did you take to correct the situation?
Photo courtesy of: TheDigitalWay
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