Protecting Your Identity

Do not allow yourself to be another victim of identity theft. Clearing your name and credit record after the fact is much more difficult that protecting yourself against identity theft. If you are a victim, it can take a lot of your time and even some of your own money to clear your name.

To help you avoid ID theft, below are some practical tips.

Shoulder-surfers are to be watched for. At ATMs and phone booths, thieves will stand close enough to see PIN numbers punched in by users. Always use your hand to cover or shield your number from others. Without you even noticing, it’s really easy to turn on an iPhone and film your PIN in high definition.

High-tech thieves are busy coming up with inventive ways to get at your personal information, including skimming your credit card during check out, shoulder surfing to snap a picture of your account, and phishing for your identity via email, websites, texting, or phone calls.

Do you keep a piece of paper shoved into your wallet or purse with all your passwords and account numbers written out on it? If so, a thief could easily open accounts in your name. If your personal information fell into the hands of a thief, would you be able to tell? One way is to keep a close eye on your credit report and watch for changes in your score.

If you have any RFID cards, then use a secure mini wallet which blocks radio frequencies.

Don’t give personal information over the phone. Anyone calling for your account numbers, such as social security, credit card, or bank account, should be told to contact you by mail and that you can’t give those details out on the telephone.

Don’t let those people doing “phishing” hook you. Scam artists looking to get personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security numbers, and other pieces of data send spam emails hoping to lure you into divulging this important information. Be careful if you get an unexpected email asking you to update or verify any important information.

Shopping online is convenient, but when it comes time to enter any personal information, be sure to look for a security seal and https in the URL. Noticing these things helps you identify a counterfeit website, so that you don’t get phished or disclose your identity in the wrong place.

Everything should be shredded. Before putting it in the trash or recycle bin, shred or tear up anything containing your name, address, credit card information, or bank account numbers. Do this for unused credit card offers too. Every day, make sure you get your mail. You can contact your bank, credit card provider and other companies that send you bills and opt for their paperless billing service. If you’re planning to be away from home and have no one that can pick up your mail for you, request a vacation hold at your local post office.

Laptops, cell phones and PDAs are hot targets for thieves, so make sure you keep close watch on these items and use strong passwords with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols to protect your data.

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