Tips for Preventing Identity Theft
All types of fraud are committed using stolen identities. When your personal information is stolen, it is almost 100% certain that some type of fraud will soon be committed using your name. If you’ve ever wondered, “How do I protect myself from identity theft?” there are some tips below that may be able to help you keep your good credit intact and save you countless hours of trying to rehab your credit and good name.
- Your Social Security Card…Leave Home Without It We don’t live in Nazi Germany where you constantly have the SS or other soldiers asking to see your papers. There is one piece of paper you definitely should not carry on your person, that’s your social security card. Never keep it in your wallet and never print it on your checks. And if given an option to have it on your drivers license, opt out. Your social security number is not to be used for identification purposes and should be shared when absolutely necessary.
- Don’t be a PINhead. I understand we don’t have the best memories sometimes, but here’s one piece of advice you really should follow, especially if you don’t want to be a victim of identity theft. Never keep a piece of paper in your wallet with your PIN number written on it. Whether this is for a debit or a credit card, the simple way to protect yourself is to just commit your PIN numbers to memory. Take some of those vitamins that help expand your memory if you need to, but never write down your PIN numbers and keep them hidden away in your wallet or purse.
- Watch Your Back. Whenever you use an ATM machine, make sure to cover up the keypad when you type in account or PIN numbers. If you need to, turn around and make sure other customers are standing far enough away they can’t see what you type, or simply just shield the keypad with your free hand.
- Pick Up Your Mail Daily. If you live in a house where mail is put inside an actual mailbox instead of some communal mail collection center in the middle of your street, the best thing to do is while on vacation or out of town more than one day is to have your mail picked up daily. This can be done by a friend or family member, but make sure they are reliable. I had someone assure me they’d pick up my mail while I was gone, but they didn’t. Better yet, put a hold on your mail by contacting your local post office. You don’t want identity thieves to get their hands on bank letters or credit card bills.
- Investigate if Your Bills Are Late. While bills are never delightful pieces of paper to receive in the mail, it is worse if they don’t arrive at all. In case your credit card bills or bank statements do not arrive in your mailbox on their usual day of the month, make sure an identity thief didn’t do something sneaky like forwarding them to his or her own address. A bill or a statement two or more days late means you should contact the sender and confirm your address has not been changed
- Read Your Credit Card Statements. When your credit card bill arrives each month, how many of you actually go over each of your transactions. You need to be careful there are not unauthorized transactions on your bill. If there are, cancel your card immediately and inquire about their credit card protection for unauthroized purchases. Checking your statement carefully each month could help you find out if your spouse had bought you a special present for your birthday or possibly, a gift for someone else. Well, let’s hope the latter doesn’t happen.
- Shred. Shred. Shred. You may keep receipts for numerous reasons. But there will be a day when you want to rid your home of those pesky pieces of paper. When you do so, rip them to pieces or shred them. Do the same to all those pre-approved credit card offers you receive in the mail. Never throw those offers away without shredding them. If you want to know how to protect yourself from identity theft, you must first realize people are trying to get your personal information, even if it means rummaging through your trash, so be careful.
- Take Advantage of Free Credit Reports Do this one time each year. Identity thieves can ruin your credit and one of the quickest ways to know your identity has been stolen is to check your credit reports. You will see instantly if someone has opened up new cards in your name, taken out a mortgage or done some other unscrupulous financial act in your name. Most credit reporting agencies will provide a free credit report once a year.
Hopefully, this post has answered the very important and often asked question “How do I protect myself from identity theft?”