The epidemic of identity theft has greatly exceeded everyone’s predictions. Recent news articles estimate as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. It can be very expensive and stressful to repair what a thief has created. We all must do what we can to stop this serious crime from increasing. Here is a list of several things that can help decrease the epidemic spread of this crime.
1. Destroy all personal information before throwing it in the trash. Keep an inexpensive shredder readily available and always be sure to shred documents, making them unreadable for thieves when they search the garbage.
2. Be very cautious of any internet solicitations. There are many identity theft scams just waiting for you to provide your account number and security codes. Consider only giving information to reputable sites you have worked with before or have accessed directly. Never use hyperlinks that come in emails and ask for personal information.
3. Keep your personal information as private as possible. Do not give it out to telephone or mail solicitors unless you know that they are from a reputable company and you have initiated the transaction yourself.
4. Keep close tabs on your wallet and purse at all times. Many of us carry a great deal of personal information in them. Consider reviewing what you carry in them and leaving some securely stored at home.
5. Check your mailbox for routine bank account statements, credit card statements and debit card and credit card renewals. Notify the sender the moment these do not arrive.
6. Monitor your credit reports at least once a year to insure the information is correct. Cancel old or unused cards or credit.
7. When using your debit card at an ATM, look for skimming devices attached to the machine for collecting the card info and pin number. Don’t allow people to be to close to you when using these devices. They might be a shoulder surfer and could be collecting your card information.
8. Use strong security codes and passwords. So many things we do these days require codes. Please do not use general information like birthdays, children’s names etc.
This is just a small list of ways to protect ourselves. If you have any other precautions to share feel free to do so. The FDIC website is also an excellent source of information on protecting your identity. With everyone working together we can slow down the progression of this serious and devastating crime.