I’ve just attended an interesting Identity Theft brief from an NCIS agent. Many of us think that we are safeguarding our personal information pretty well, but there are usually additional steps that we can take to further protect ourselves from becoming victims of identity theft.
Here are six steps you can take to prevent identity theives from using your information for malicious purposes:
- If you know your personal information has been compromised, contact the three major credit bureaus and request that a fraud alert be placed on your account.
- If your wallet, purse, or documents are stolen, file a police report. This report will provide you with supporting evidence if you have to establish that fraud has occurred.
- Know your mail. Lessen the amount of personal information coming through your mail by using online statements. Be aware of when you should receive statements. Check your mail daily and ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up your mail if you are unavailable. Consider using a locking mailbox or PO box for financial information.
- Shred or burn any papers that contain personally identifying information. Do not put it out in your regular trash or recycling.
- Check your credit report regularly. Immediately report any unauthorized or suspicious activity.
- Do not share your social security number unnecessarily. Many businesses, in an attempt to simplify their record-keeping, will use a social security number for identifying purposes. Request that another identifying number be used. I have an account that asks that I enter my social security number every time I log in online. I’m really uncomfortable with that, and I’m pursuing steps to persuade this company to offer alternate log in credentials.
It is virtually impossible to prevent every instance of identity theft. However, a little care can decrease the chances that it might occur, and can also limit the damage if a criminal does access your personal information.