In 2012 16.6 million US residents were victims of some form of identity theft, resulting in a total loss of $24 billion. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Limit the use of your Social Security and driver’s license numbers. Make sure any form where it is required (such as medical forms) is kept secure and away from prying eyes. Ask questions or just refuse if you are requested to give this information somewhere where it seems odd.
- Your full birthdate and birthplace can be used to get the first digits of your Social Security number, making those supposedly safe last 4 digits extremely useful to an identity thief. Don’t put this information down on public forms!
- Double-check your email address when making an online purchase and don’t save credit card info with online merchants. My cousin recently had an online order confirmation sent to him by mistake. He was able to go to the merchant’s website, get the fellow’s name and address and track down his actual email (through Linked In) and contact him to let him know about the error. If he had not been honest, he could have changed the delivery address and ordered whatever he wanted with the stored credit card info.
- Email is notoriously easy to intercept—someone once compared it to sending a postcard. Don’t email personal information, credit card numbers, etc.
- Don’t give out personal info over the phone unless you initiated the call. Also, try to avoid making these types of calls in a public place. Not-so-innocent ears may be listening and taking notes.
- Thieves have used the video recording capabilities of their cell phones to record PIN numbers or credit or debit card numbers for later use. Cover your card and shield the PIN pad even if you don’t believe there is anyone behind you.
- Don’t leave mail in any unlocked mail pickup location, either at home or work. Instead, drop off in a blue mailbox or at the post office itself.
- Shred any incoming credit card or insurance offers that are mailed to you and not just to “Resident”. They can be used to open accounts in your name.
- Be sure also to shred old bank and credit card statements and even receipts if they contain credit card numbers
- Opt-out of credit card offers by writing to:
Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service
PO Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512
Or call the credit reporting industry at 888-567-8688
- Keep vital documents and your purse or wallet in a secure location.
- Monitor your bank and credit card account activity and order your free annual Credit report: www.annualcreditreport.com or 877-322-8228
More information and suggestions at: