Nine Easy Things You Can Do to Protect Your Identity
Identity theft is frequently in the news these days and with good reason. It's become one of the most common crimes and anyone can become a victim of it. This is unfortunate because identity theft can be devastating. It can destroy your credit, drain your finances, and affect your reputation. However, you can fight back. Here are nine easy things you can do to protect your identity:
- One of the best ways to protect your identity is by using a paper shredder. You should shred any document that contains personal information: canceled checks, bank statements, old credit reports, and so on. Cross-cut shredders offer much more security than strip-cut models and there are some devices that can shred items like credit cards and CD's. Shredders are available in a variety of sizes so it's easy to find one that's perfect for your needs and budget.
- Whenever you're at an ATM or making a purchase with your debit card, make sure that no one can see which numbers you're pressing as you enter your PIN. Likewise, give people space when they're paying for something or banking. It's all about common courtesy.
- Take care when creating passwords for websites. It's a good idea to use different passwords for different sites and to change your passwords on a regular basis. If you have trouble remembering your passwords, use a program like Password Safe that will keep them under wraps but still allow you to cut and paste them into web forms.
- Make sure you pick up your mail daily and to mail your items at the post office. It's very easy for someone to break into your personal mailbox and if there's mail in it, he or she will have access to a wealth of personal information.
- Take the time to read your bank and credit card statements every month so you can detect any fraud that may have occurred. You should also check your credit report on a regular basis and alert the credit bureaus if you notice any suspicious activity. You can get your credit report for free once a year, so be sure to take advantage of the opportunity.
- When you're making a purchase or paying a bill online, you should make sure that you're using a secured site. The easiest way to tell if a website is secure or not is to look at the beginning of the URL. If the beginning reads “https://” you're good to go. Also, try not to make online purchases with a cell phone. Chances are, the connection won't be secure.
- You should try to limit the amount of credit cards you carry. Not only will this make it less likely for someone to steal your identity, you'll have better control over your finances and be less likely to find yourself in a lot of debt. You should also report lost cards when necessary and destroy expired or unwanted ones.
- Keep your Social Security card and other important paperwork in a safe place such as a locked filing cabinet or a safety deposit box. Also, be careful about giving out your Social Security number. You should do so only when necessary.
- When it comes time to move to a new residence, make sure you update your address with the post office, friends and relatives, creditors, etc. The last thing you need is to have a complete stranger receiving your mail.