Each year, over 9 million Americans are affected by identity theft. Because identity theft can ruin your credit, cost you your tax refund, and cause months or even years of frustration as you attempt to put your life back together, it’s important to remember that prevention is the best remedy. Take these steps to prevent identity theft, and remember that no one is immune from this type of fraud.
Protect your purse or wallet. Don’t let them exposed in public places, and only carry what you need. Leave your Social Security card at home, and don’t carry more credit cards than you will be using on an outing. Keep photocopies of all credit cards and identifying documents so that you can easily replace them if stolen.
Shred your mail and other important documents before discarding them. It’s not very high-tech, but many thieves still rummage through the trash looking for information they can use to steal identities.
Carefully examine credit card and bank account statements each month. Be on guard for suspicious activity so that you can report it immediately. Cancel credit cards that you don’t use; you will have one less account to monitor.
Choose difficult passwords. Hackers use computer programs to crack online passwords. Using a combination of symbols, upper- and lowercase letters, and numbers can keep your passwords safe.
Be careful about online communications. Con artists often send emails that appear very real. But your bank, credit card company, the IRS and so on will not ask you to follow a link and enter your personal information. These are often dummy websites established for the purpose of gathering account names and passwords.
Keep your computer protected by anti-virus software. Run scans on a regular basis.
Be careful with phone calls. Even if your caller ID displays the name of a seemingly reputable company or government agency, remember that these people will usually not call you to ask personal information. Hang up the phone, and call a known customer service number to see if there is a problem with your account.
Subscribe to an identity protection service. If you are ever the victim of identity theft, the services offered by these companies can help you get your life back on track. We recommend Legal Shield to our clients. It’s a relatively inexpensive service, and covers much more than just identity theft. Give us a call, and we can discuss Legal Shield’s services with you. That way you can see for yourself if the service is a good fit for your needs.