Here are some great ideas to help prevent identity theft.
1. Educate yourself about how identity theft happens. Remember you are the most important part of your identity and personal information security.
2. Protect your personal information. Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information; don’t just throw them in the trash.
3. Don’t make your wallet a one-stop-stealing opportunity. Don’t keep social security numbers, birthdays and other personal information in your wallet.
4. Keep a copy of your credit cards, driver’s license, passport and other personal cards you carry in your wallet in a safe place at home. Copy the front and back. That way if you lose your wallet you know what was in it and you have the account numbers and phone numbers at the ready to notify them immediately.
5. Avoid giving out your Social Security number. Don’t write it on a check. Ask if you can provide an alternative form of identification.
6. Never give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you are sure you are dealing with whom you think you are. That means you called them at a number you looked up for example, not something you got in a phone call, email or letter.
7. Be suspicious of links in emails you receive, as well as phone numbers given to you in letters or in phone calls made to you.
8. Use a smart card-based digital security device for online payment or banking if it is available. Generally this represents the highest level of security you can get.
9. Monitor your credit reports with all three bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Get a credit reporting package, or at least get your annual free credit report online from annualcreditreport.com, a service created by the credit bureaus. You can also call 1-877-322-8228, or write to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
10. Always enter links (or use your own shortcuts) to banks, online retailers, brokers or any other trusted sites. Do not click on emails sent to you.
11. Always check the address bar for to confirm the address and check for a secure link.
12. Avoid unauthorized sharing of music, movies, TV shows or other files online. There is a lot of risk of getting malware through music, movie and other downloads. And it is illegal. If you cannot stop your children from doing this at least keep them off the PC you use for banking and buying. Don’t give them home network access to files on your PC and never buy anything on their computer. (Interested in more on how to do this? Send us an email and tell us if you would like to know more about children, downloads and malware.)
13. Consider a credit lock, or credit freeze. This slows your ability to borrow because you have to suspend the lock, but it keeps people from opening up account or taking mortgages using your identity. Here is an interesting article on credit freeze from Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the National Consumer Law in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s inquiry regarding the impact and effectiveness of credit report freezes.