Thousands of people find themselves victims of identity theft each year, it is a crime that can destroy financial lives and the personal reputation of a good citizen. To protect your identity from savvy thieves you must take a very proactive attitude towards your personal information and employ strict routine precautions to keep your sensitive date from reaching the wrong hands.
It is not the responsibility of anyone else but your own to avoid identity theft, yes the task can certainly be outsourced to a reliable service that dedicates a lot of resources to providing you with the best identity protection methods, however, there are things that as an individual you can also do on your own to minimize the risk of you becoming a victim of identity theft.
To protect your identity you should follow these steps, these are the most basic things you can do on your own, if the tasks seem too much of a burden for you, the only other alternative is to automate the process by employing a identity theft protection service from one of the top providers. But, if you’re up to the task here’s what you need to do:
1. Monitor your credit accounts – most of us don’t take the time to read our credit card statements when they arrive, it order to spot credit card fraud you need to have keen eye on your credit accounts. Some identity thieves may be using your credit card accounts in a less aggressive or subtle way by only charging small items. Others may just go for it and buy all the can at once, either way you need to carefully analyze your statements for accuracy and spot fraud early on.
2. Review your bank statements – along with credit card fraud, bank fraud is also a hot issues. Often people lose their bank related information online, since more people are going towards online banking. Take the time to read your bank statement and review the purchases you made throughout the month before you archive the statement.
3. Monitor your credit report – one of the most basic and yet important measures in preventing identity theft is for you to review your credit report often. You can in fact get your credit report once a year from all three credit bureaus, though reviewing your credit once a year is not good enough. You should review it at least once every quarter to be able to spot fraud on your report early on. You’re looking for new credit card accounts, or personal loans, student loans etc anything that you know was not originated by you.
4. Set up fraud alerts – if you have big concern right now and you feel overwhelmed by all the manual tasks you have to perform, one way you can automate preventing identity theft is to set fraud alerts on your credit. Fraud alerts are good first line of defense, these will flag and require any creditor or company running a credit check to approve an application in your name to verify your identity by contacting you directly. Fraud alerts must be renewed every 90 days.
5. Monitor your health insurance benefits – medical identity theft is a huge deal today, the consequences of this type of identity theft is much more severe in many ways for the victims. Primarily, if your medical history is altered by someone else receiving treatment under your name, the changes to your medical history are hard to reverse and you could potentially be at risk of being give the wrong diagnosis and prescription due to this. In order to protect your identity against medical thieves, you need to also review your medical benefit statements carefully and make sure that only you and your family are receiving benefits.
6. Use anti-spyware, anti-virus and firewall protection – when it comes to doing business online, shopping, or just wasting time, you need to be aware that there are hackers and identity thieves constantly on the lookout for entry points into computer systems that are not properly protected. Anti-virus alone can not protect you from malicious broadcasts and malware. Spyware software is a must and firewall protection is also a plus to fully protect your identity while online.
Everyone has the ability to do this, it just takes some effort. If this looks like a lot more than you’re willing to do on your own, then you must consider fully automating the process of identity theft protection by hiring one of the top identity theft protection services to look after your information. However there are other tasks you need to perform to protect your identity, that these services can’t really for you:
1. Limit the amount of information you carry in your wallet, most of us carry way too much information and the reasoning for this is usually “just in case”, “what if” etc. You should take your social security card out of your wallet and lock it up at home. All those extra credit cards and things you have not used in years can cost you dearly if they end up in the wrong hands if you lose your wallet.
2. Get a lock mail box or P.O. Box address if your current mailbox does not lock. Mail fraud is also an easy way to fall prey to identity theft. This is an easy way for credit card fraud to occur if someone is able to simply swipe your mail from your mailbox.
3. Never hand out your social security number unless it is absolutely necessary. Many online sources and often cable and phone companies ask for this information carelessly. Opt for a different form of ID or simply consider a different service.