One of the worst things that can happen to you is to become a victim of identity theft. If your personal information should fall into the wrong hands it will take you a long time to get your credit and your financial life straightened out. You can be denied jobs, insurance and loans for a home or transportation because someone ruined your credit by stealing your identity. This article will give you the knowledge that you need to protect yourself from identity theft.
Identity thieves can get your personal information in a number of ways. They may steal your purse or wallet or steal your mail from your mailbox. Dumpster diving is a popular way of obtaining your information as they sort through your trash to get their hands on credit card offers or other information that you have discarded. An identity thief may call you on the phone or send you an email posing as a representative from your bank or credit card company. They may ask for your account numbers and social security number under the pretense of verifying your account information. They may even complete a change of address form and have your mail diverted to another address so they can get their hands on it.
Identity thieves are smart and innovative. Never assume that your personal information is safe. As technology advances, so does the opportunities for identity thieves and scam artists. Here are a few ways that you can keep your personal information safe:
o Take advantage of your right to one free credit report per year. Keep a close eye on your credit report. If you notice any suspicious activity, contact the credit reporting agencies right away. Let them know that you feel you have been a victim of identity theft. They can place a fraud alert on your profile so that every new application for credit must be verified by you personally.
o Check your banking accounts daily. Most banks have online access to your accounts. Use the online features and keep a close eye on your checking and savings accounts. Make sure that access to these accounts are protected by passwords that you can set. Don’t use passwords that are easy for identity thieves to guess such as, mother’s maiden name, your birthday or your social security number or a series of consecutive numbers.
o Guard your mail carefully. Drop off outgoing mail at the post office instead of leaving it in your mailbox to be picked up. Shred your junk mail and any other statements before throwing them away. It is best to use a cross cut shredder for this.
o Don’t carry your social security card with you. Store it in a safe place such as a safe at home or in a safety deposit box. Have your social security number removed from all documents and forms of communication including your driver’s license. Never give your social security number over the phone or through an email.
o Keep your anti virus software updated on your computer. Always have a firewall activated on your computer to decrease the risk of spyware and phishing programs getting sent to your computer. It is a good idea to use spybot and adaware programs frequently to destroy any programs that may be spying on you to collect personal information.
Protecting your personal information may take a little bit of effort on your part, but it is worth it to thwart the identity thieves. Use the tips above diligently and don’t allow yourself to become a victim of identity theft.