Preventing Identity Theft
An estimated 9 million people are victims of identity theft each year according to the Federal Trade Commission.Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America, so how do you prevent yourself of becoming a victim of identity theft? Preventing identity theft is nearly impossible to do, criminals can easily get your information due to your careless handling of your information. Though you can't completely stop identity theft there are ways you can reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.
Here are some of the best ways for preventing identity theft:
- Try not to carry very many credit cards or debit cards in your wallet. Stick to using your credit cards rather than your debit card. If you use your debit card be sure to monitor your bank statement online for any unauthorized charges, if you think you see a fraudulant charge report it to your financial institution immediately. When using your cards pay close attention to how the magnetic stripe is swiped, dishonest employees can use hand held devices called skimmers to swipe the card and download the account number onto a personal computer. When shopping online use your credit card rather than your debit card because you are better protected in case of fraud.
- Protect Your Social Security Number: Never give out your SSN, getting someone's SSN is like hitting the lottery for identity thieves. Making sure no one gets your SSN is the best way to prevent identity theft from happening. Don't carry your SSN with you, if you need to have your SSN for any reason you can copy the number onto paper and cut off the last 4 digits to ensure no one can get your SSN.
- Don't be so quick to toss things in the trash such as financial statements, bills, or annual Social Security statements. Thieves can easily dumpster dive to steal your information and begin the process of stealing your identity. The best way to prevent identity theft is to purchase a shredder, shred any documents containing your information rather than simply tossing them into the trash.
- With your mailbox being so far away from your home you should take extra precautions. Have you ever noticed that over time our mailboxes seem to be getting further and further away from our homes and closer to identity thieves' hands? Make sure your mailbox has a lock to make it harder for anyone to steal your mail. As another precaution you may want to take your mail to the post office rather than waiting for your mail carrier to pick it up or an identity thief.
- Can you really trust some of the business you are dealing with? Identity thieves are good at coming up with ways to make the customer believe that what kind of business they are conducting is legitimate. You may get a call saying you've won something and all you have to do is submit your SSN or other personal information to claim your prize, most of the time it is a scam so they can steal your identity. They may call you pretending to be your bank, internet service providers, or even employees of government agencies. By impersonating these people they automatically gain your trust in which they can easily obtain your perosnal information. Unless you are absolutely sure of who you are dealing with do not under any circumstance give out your information to anyone over the phone, internet, or mail.
- Prevent Internet hackers. Be sure to install firewall protection on your home computer and install and update virus protection software frequently. Make sure you protect your files with a password, create a password that is totally random, one that doesn't contain any of your personal information such as SSN, a birthdate, your mothers maiden name, or anything personal. Another great way to protect yourself is to never give out perosnal information over the internet. The Internet is a great resource and it's difficult to remember how we survived without it. But it's also very important to know how to protect yourself and your information over the internet.