Identity Theft - Tips
Identity theft can impact every area of a victim’s life. An identity is stolen every three seconds. Here are ten tips to increase your odds of staying safe.
- Do not give out your social security number unless absolutely necessary. Social security numbers can lead to tax refund fraud, credit card and loan fraud, medical fraud and social security fraud. On many occasions when you are asked for your number it is not needed and another safer identifier will do.
- Never carry your social security card with you unless absolutely necessary and be aware of who may be listening if you are asked for the number.
- Protect and change your online passwords regularly and use a combination of characters, numbers and special characters that are not easily identified with you. Do not use the same passwords over and over again and they should be one of the first things changed, particularly if you bank online, if you believe your identity has been compromised.
- Be social media aware. Have you limited your privacy settings so that thieves cannot put together a full picture? Is it just close friends or the world? Thieves can retrieve hints for passwords, where you are and if your home is empty, they can even use your children on their tax returns for a deduction
- Phishing activities are on the rise. Apart from not opening a malware or ransomware attachment, emails can ask you to click links and verify financial or other identifying markers or they can ask for credit card and bank details. Instead, close the emails, go independently to the organization or bank’s website and log in. Always remember to log out afterward, and in the case of malware and ransomware back up frequently.
- Use a cross-cut shredder or an accredited shredding service such as Proshred Southern New Jersey. Making sure that personal information, names, addresses and anything financial is securely destroyed is key to staying safe. Recycling, while admirable is not secure if it has not been shredded first. A company like Proshred Southern New Jersey will recycle after your information has been securely shredded. Make sure that who you give your information to is doing the same, such as your doctor, accountant, emergency room visit or school.
- Mail at the Post Office or from a secured mailbox. Thieves can steal or just photograph personal information and then use it. Do not put that full credit card number on the payment check, just the last 5 digits.
- Carry only one or two credit cards and immediately report them if stolen. The longer thieves have your information the more problems they can cause.
- Check with the three credit reporting agencies on a rotating schedule. You are allowed one free check every year so spacing them at three-month intervals allows you a more ongoing monitoring of your credit and whether it has been compromised than asking all three at once.
- Lastly, be aware. Being careless and thinking it cannot happen to you is probably wishful thinking. Over 30% of information security breaches are the result of human error. You can’t fully protect yourself but you can lessen the odds that you will be the victim.