Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

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Ways to Prevent Identity Theft is Part 1 of The Identity Theft Prevention Series. Go to the end of the article for the rest of the series.

There are ways to prevent identity theft and protect what is rightfully yours. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your information illegally for their benefit.

These can include making withdrawals from your accounts, opening credit cards, and making major purchases.

Protecting your identity is not as easy as putting on a pair of glasses and gelling up your hair.

Knowing how to stop the criminal activity and reporting identity theft are important. But you can learn how to stop this crime before it happens. All it takes is a little education and you may be able to stop identity theft before it happens to you.

Private Information

Keep your information private. Be careful to whom you disclose your personal information. For example, your SSN should be a number that is kept pretty secret. Here's how to protect this number.

  • Do NOT give your SSN to anyone unless necessary.
  • Do NOT carry your SSN in your wallet or purse. If you lose either of these, there goes your SSN. Keep your SSN card in a safe place.
  • Do NOT email your SSN, or even store it on a computer.
  • Do NOT use your SSN as a password. I know there are many people that do this. Do not give thieves a "two for one" here.

Mail

There are great ways to prevent identity theft by adjusting how you handle your mail. Unfortunately, mail theft is typically how identity theft begins.

  • Pick up your mail as soon as it is deposited in your mailbox. Consider getting a P.O. Box so that your mail is secure with a key.
  • Instead of putting outgoing mail in your mailbox, drop it off at a post office.
  • Shred your mail and any old information that has sensitive data. Do not throw them away.
  • Pay your bills online. You can eliminate mail but still keep a trail of your online payments.

Credit Cards

I love the advantages of credit cards. However, they give thieves an easy way to make big purchases quickly.

  • Do not carry extra credit cards in your wallet or purse. Carry only what is needed.
  • Do not sign the back of your credit card. Instead, put "PHOTO ID REQUIRED".
  • Get your free credit score check online. You will be able to monitor and identify suspicious activity. It actually may be a good opportunity for you to fix your credit score.

Checks

I strongly dislike writing checks. But, it may be the only way a company may accept payment. If so, here are some ways to protect your information.

  • Next time you order checks, only have your initials put on them instead of your first and last name. Thieves will not know how to sign your checks with your initials.
  • On the "FOR" line of your checks, do not enter entire account numbers. Just put the last four. The company receiving the check will know the rest of the account number.
  • Put your work phone number on your checks rather than your home phone number.
  • Never print, or write, your SSN number on your checks. Anyone handling your check will have access to it.
  • Use gel pens to sign your checks. The ink stays put.

Online

There are certain ways to prevent identity theft online. Digital information is sometimes easier to retrieve. Implement these tips to protect yourself.

  • Never click on a link sent in an unsolicited email. If it is too good to be true, it probably is.
  • When you have to enter personal information, use websites with "https://" in the address bar and the padlock icon in the status bar. These are secure websites.
  • Do not access personal financial accounts from public places: libraries, hotels, airports, etc. These places are prime targets to monitor keystrokes to steal user names and passwords.
  • Create PINs (personal identification numbers) that utilize characters, numbers and symbols.
  • Use firewalls, anti-spyware and anti-virus software to protect home computers. Regularly update your software for maximum protection.

Why Protect?

A detective at an Identity Theft seminar told us that victims of identity theft spend over 175 hours and $800 clearing their good names. These tips on how to prevent identity theft can save you time and money.

While there are numerous ways to prevent identity theft, use this list as a resource. Take action now and protect yourself.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. Do not let this kryptonite affect your wealth and well being.

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