The Top 10 Ways to Protect Your Identity
Use this checklist to protect yourself from identity theft.
1: Keep your mail safe
Keep your mail in a locked mailbox or consider using a PO Box at the post office. Put a stop order on mail delivery when you are traveling.
2: Read your account statements
Each month open all of your statements for bank accounts, credit cards, etc. to check for purchases that you do not recognize. Or better yet, set up your account on the company's secure website and check your account there every few days.
3: Check your credit reports
You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, Trans Union). Access them by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. Read them completely and look for errors in your personal information or accounts that you do not recognize.
Some thieves have been known to go through garbage cans and dumpsters looking for your financial information. Once you are finished with a financial document use a crosscut shredder to dispose of it.
5: Store personal documents at home
Some people like all of their important things in one place -- like a purse or wallet -- but this can be disastrous if your purse or wallet is stolen or lost. Leave your Social Security card, and any credit cards that you don't use on a regular basis, at home. Keep important documents, as well as birth certificates, immigration documents; insurance policy information, and bank account information in a fireproof lockbox or another secure location.
6: Be wary of unknown phone calls and emails
Never give out personal information via phone or email—even if they claim to be your bank. Unsolicited phone calls and emails could be scams, so watch out for them. You can stop phone calls through the National Do Not Call Registry at https://www.donotcall.gov/. Never click on links within emails whose addresses you do not recognize. Some are "phishing" scams that are trying to access personal information on your computer. Identify them as "junk" in your email or forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
7: Create difficult logins and passwords
Identity thieves can access your information by hacking into your computer by decoding your passwords. Keep your passwords safe by avoiding family names, important dates, or any words that can be found in a dictionary; keep them long; use a combination of letters, number and symbols; and change them monthly. Also avoid using obvious keyboard patterns for your passwords: 1qazxsw2 or qwerty, for example. Do not store you passwords on your computer. The same applies to your cell phone. While it is a pain to enter a password every time you open your phone, this will provide you with some security in the event that your phone is lost or stolen. Also, take advantage of system updates to make sure your phone has the latest security systems.
8: Use one credit card for online shopping
Once a hacker is successful, he or she can start making use of credit cards that you use for online purchases. To reduce this risk designate one credit card for all purchases you make online. And remember; never use a debit card online.
9: Keep your security, virus and spyware software up-to-date
It’s easy to skip over the prompts to update software. Don’t. Take the time to update your security, virus, and spyware software when prompted. Do not click on links that pop up when you are online claiming to be security updates. These may be links to viruses or spyware—the very thing you are trying to protect against.
10: Be social media savvy
Some identity thieves might be trolling around social media sites looking for identifying information or vacation pictures indicating that you are not home. Information on social media sites is often used to figure out passwords. Make use of social media privacy settings and save your "wish your were here" photos for once you return home.