protection against identity theft
Identity theft is a crime that affects 1 in 25 Americans. For anyone new to the phrase, it is where someone unlawfully uses your personal information in a fraudulent way typically for financial gain. Your personal data can be used by someone else to profit at your expense.
This is a scary but true reality of the times in which we live. What can you do to protect your personal information and help reduce your risk of identity theft?
- Keep your financial documents and records in a safe place at home. There are small safes that can be bolted to the floor in an office or inside of your closet. Many filing cabinets also come with locks.
- Limit what you carry in your purse or wallet. When you go out, take only the identification, credit, and debit cards you need. Leave your Social Security card at home.
- Destroy prescription labels before throwing bottles or packages in the garbage.
- Invest in a household shredder. Shred any mail with your name, especially credit card offers, receipts, applications, insurance forms, healthcare statements, checks, bank statements, expired credit/debit cards, and any similar documents with any personal information when you don’t need them any longer.
- Use strong passwords with your computer and any online accounts. Be creative, use a mixture of letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Lock your smartphone.
- Never pass personal information through email, instant message or text message.
- Review your financial statements regularly, specifically looking out for any unfamiliar activity. If you find something that is off, report it ASAP.
- Be alert for phishing. This a trick in which spam or pop-ups mimic legitimate banks or businesses to obtain your personal information, which they use to access your accounts. Always verify that you’re on a familiar Web site with security controls before entering personal data.
- Monitor your credit report. Only use one of the three trusted bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Never trust a knockoff site.
- Look into services that offer personal identity protection services, such as LifeLock
By being alert and cautious, you can protect yourself and your personal information.