Who are identity thieves? The thief could be the guy next door who is stealing your mail or going through your trash to steal your personal information. Or the employee in the HR Department at your workplace who is stealing your personal information or selling it. What about the person working at your doctor or dentist’s office, or in your insurance agent’s office? The people at the bank, or the mortgage company from where you just obtained your mortgage? All of these people have access to your most sensitive personal information!
The mail delivery person, or the doorman at your residence could be stealing your mail. Anywhere you use your credit card you are vulnerable. Relatives and family members are often the culprits. And, get this, every time you turn on your computer you are at risk!
Identity thieves are everywhere.
Identity theft is a nightmare! On average, identity theft victims spend an average of 600 hours over more than 44 months trying to repair their credit and take back their identity. And, victims of identity theft are often denied employment, and rental leases due to their damaged credit. In addition, with the bad credit that isn’t even their doing, they will usually pay higher insurance rates, be denied personal, car, or mortgage loans, and credit cards. Even worse, there are reports of identity theft victims being arrested for crimes they didn’t commit!
Be proactive. Take steps to protect your personal information. Here are 10 tips that may help you prevent this crime from happening to you:
- Get a shredder and shred every document, every piece of junk mail, every bank or credit card statement, and anything that has your personal information on it before you throw it away. Trash is one of the best places for identity thieves to start stealing your personal information.
- Never give your Social Security Number, credit or debit card number or any other personal information over the phone, by mail, or over the Internet unless you have a trusted business relationship with the company and you were the one who initiated the call.
- Request a copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, every year. The federal government has mandated that everyone is entitled to one free report from each bureau every year. We recommend that you stagger the reports over the year, ordering one from each of the three bureaus every four months. Your credit report will offer an early warning of any fraudulent activity, or credit accounts that were opened without your knowledge.
- Do not have your Social Security Number or driver’s license number printed on checks.
- Do not carry your Social Security Card in your wallet. Keep it in a safe and secure place.
- Consider obtaining a Post Office Box at your local Post Office, and have your mail sent there. One of the easiest ways identity thieves obtain personal information is by stealing mail from unlocked mailboxes. ID thieves can find newly issued credit cards, bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit or cellular phone offers, investment statements, insurance statements, and tax information in mailboxes, and use the information to commit fraud.
- Be careful at ATM’s when accessing your account. Shield your hand when entering your PIN, and avoid using the machine if anyone is lurking at your shoulder.
- Memorize any computer passwords and credit/debit card PIN’s. Do not write them down and keep them in your wallet. Change passwords frequently, and do not use your date of birth, last four digits of your SSN, mother’s maiden name, spouse’s or children’s names, address, or other easy to identify words and numbers as passwords.
- Avoid using your computer in public places, or public Wi-Fi, where hackers can easily obtain information wirelessly from your computer.
- Do not store your personal information on your computer. Not only is your computer subject to viruses and other methods thieves use to steal information, but if your computer is stolen your information will be stolen with it.
Don’t be a victim! Take action to prevent this crime from happening to you.