For years, identity theft has been the fastest growing fraud even though there is ample information on how to protect yourself — multiple books, magazine articles, internet stories, and government, bank and financial company’s websites, on more. Even with mass amounts of public awareness, it continues, and it is a serious crime costing the victim time and money to resolve.
The simplicity of obtaining identity information is shocking. Most credit card applications request a name, address, birthday and Social Security number to open an account. This information is easily obtained in anyone’s wallet. Diligently guarding your wallet may not be enough. There are ‘shoulder surfers’ who grab card numbers quickly. Credit bureaus and other public records are treasure houses filled with valuable information useful to a knowledgeable thief.
Consider a few simple steps you can take to protect your identity
Release your SSN only when absolutely necessary—on tax forms, employment records and banking transactions. Never give it out over the telephone, a text message or an email. Here are a few do nots:
- Do not print your Social Security number on personal checks
- Do not use any part of it as your PIN
- Do not keep it in your wallet. Memorize the number and leave the card at home.
Watch for missing mail. If a credit card is about to expire and you have not received a new one, call the company.
Medicare has now removed the social security number from the card, but some health insurance cards still use that number as identification. If yours happens to be one that has not removed the SSN, make a photocopy of the original card and cut the copy down to wallet size. Then blacken out the number and carry the copy with you rather than the actual card.
Reduce the number of credit cards that you carry to a bare minimum. Overstuffed wallets with several credit cards and department store cards increases the amount of work should your wallet get lost or stolen. When traveling with a companion, you should carry one type of credit card and have your partner carry a different one. This way you will always be able to use at least one if the other is missing.
Deposit outgoing mail at a postal collection box or inside your local post office rather than an unsecured mailbox at your house. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox as well. If you plan to be away, have a neighbor pick up mail or contact your local post office to request a vacation hold.
Shred all documents that carry account numbers and personal information—an easy, cheap security measure.
Obtain your free credit report at least once a year. Check for accounts or inquiries that you did not authorize — Annual Credit Report
Make a copy of the front and back of your driver’s license, credit cards, ATM cards, library card, AAA, AARP, etc. You never know when you might need the information printed on the front and back of cards. While you are at it make a copy of your passport. Store these copies in a safe place. This is your insurance policy in case your wallet is gone along with your personal information.
Protect your private information while shopping online. Look for a URL that begins with ‘https://’, or the words ‘Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)” or a padlock in the status bar. These signs indicate that only you and the merchant can view payment information.
Take care of your numbers!
Beware of Phishers
Phishing is when someone attempts to obtain sensitive information (such as personal and financial information, usernames, passwords and credit card details) by masquerading as a trustworthy person or business in what appears to be an official email, text messages or voice mail. Some one is phishing and you can easily be snagged!
How does it happen? Easy! It looks real, you probably already do business with them and you believe they really do need your information to perform the required update. Ooops… you are caught!
Knowledge is everything, so look carefully before you click on any links or give out any personal information. You need to determine if these emails are really from reputable companies or financial institutions. This scam changes frequently, but they all have the same purpose. Give me your information!
STOP! There is one simple precaution you can take to keep from being a victim. DO NOT USE THE LINKS IN EMAILS. Immediately go to the company’s website directly. For your safety and protection, stay clear of embedded links.
Organize your wallet, purse, briefcase
Save yourself a lot of hassle by getting your wallet, purse, briefcase in order. Remember, don’t carry anything that you are don’t want to lose.