Do you know anyone who has had their identity stolen? If you do, you know how tough it is to get everything straightened out on your credit once there is a problem. Here are a few tips to help guard against identity theft.
Be careful with what you throw away!
Our current laws state that once you throw something in the trash and put it on the street, it is legal for someone else to go through your garbage. As disgusting as that sounds, identity thieves do it, looking for personal information. Instead of throwing away documents, you need to shred them. This includes paystubs, credit card offers, debt consolidation offers, bank statements, doctor’s bills, etc. You really can’t be too careful with what you throw away. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. If you can’t afford a shredder, look for free shred days at local banks or businesses.
Be careful where you go on the web!
There are two ways the internet can burn you when it comes to identity theft. The first is transactions you perform. It is more and more convenient to purchase online, pay bills online, check bank statements online — and we are taking advantage of that convenience. Unfortunately, it is another way to expose our personal information to identity thieves. Even logging into our email accounts can be potentially dangerous if that account is linked to our bank accounts, since it is usually possible to retrieve passwords by having a reset link sent to our emails. There are three major ways to protect yourself from a breach. The first is to use secure networks when performing these transactions. Logging into your bank account while at a Starbucks is a good way to allow someone to steal access to your account. Only use connections and computers that are secure. The second is to make sure the websites you are using have appropriate security. A third way to keep your information safe is to make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus and malware protection on your computer. There are many free options for both that can be found online, but make sure you do some research before downloading an option you are not familiar with or that you cannot verify its validity through a trusted source.
Be careful what you post on the web!
Here’s a test I want you to perform: go to any search engine and put in your name. You may be surprised all of the information that comes up about you. There are more and more hackers who are dedicated to “information mining”-searching for as much information about people and creating profiles, often unbeknownst to the individual. Don’t make it easier for people like this by putting your information readily available to the public on social networking sites. It’s not that hard for people to pull this information if you don’t protect it, so, know what you are posting about yourself and what’s available to others. I would recommend deleting addresses, phone numbers, and other personal information that you have listed on any social networking page you have, even if it is only available to your friends. You may be friends with people you knew years ago — and you have no idea what type of lifestyle they are living today.
These are just a few easy and free things you can do without even going to advanced options like purchasing credit-monitoring services or pulling your credit report. You do not need to spend money to make a difference in protecting yourself from identity theft. Keep yourself safe!