As America‘s fastest-growing crime, identity theft has posed a serious threat for the last decade or so. Here are some helpful hints to protect yourself:
Beware of “Shoulder Surfers”
Before entering an access code at banks, store checkouts, or ATM machines, insure that no one is observing from behind you. Warily watch your back while logging onto websites or inputting personal identifying data from your job, as well. After concluding your transaction, clear the browsing history to avoid unauthorized access via inadvertently stored passwords.
Shred Sensitive Stuff
Low-tech identity theft still abounds. Dumpster-diving thieves can retrieve discarded documents from your trash. A paper shredder is perfect for preventing expensive careless errors.
Be Selective About Your Social Security Number
Never reveal it via phone or email. Do not use any part of it for a PIN or carry a Social Security card in your purse or wallet. If you must enter it on any electronic or online form, make sure it is properly masked to foil full display of the digits.
Verify Accuracy of Account Statements
Carefully peruse all paper or electronic billing and banking statements. Ensure that all charges or transactions are indeed legitimate and accurate. In this same vein, never divulge bank account numbers by phone or email.
Several subscription-based services offer automated monitoring of your credit file for a nominal fee. These financial “watchdogs” watch your credit report for major changes. Unusual account activity, purported creditor inquiries, or drastic dips in your credit score will set alarm bells clanging. You are duly notified of such discrepancies via immediate email alert.
Delete Digitized Data
Upon sale or disposal of computer components, totally destroy any previously-stored data. Specialized software can accomplish its irrevocable obliteration. Physical destruction of storage media such as CDs, tapes, or DVDs is also prudent.
Pare Personal Data Displayed on Checks
Omit driver’s license and Social Security numbers from your checks. Consider establishing an alternative address via a “mail drop” such as Mail Boxes, Etc. to avoid residence location revelation. Use only an initial instead of your full first name.
Use Photo ID
Instead of signing your credit cards, write the phrase “See Photo ID” in the signature strip. This shields your signature from disclosure to dishonest shysters.
Pay Bills at The Post Office
Do not leave statements with checks enclosed inside your mailbox for pickup. Deposit them into the nearest postal receptacle. Mail thieves can gain easy access to your signature, credit, and banking information from personal mailboxes.
Be a Careful Online Consumer
Do not input sensitive financial or personal data at unfamiliar websites. Well-established sites like Amazon or eBay are safe. For all others, do not conduct business online unless the “Pay Pal Verified” and “SSL Encrypted” logos are displayed.
Protect your personal information from exploitative monetary motivations. If you find yourself victimized, don’t surrender in silence. Put up a fight. Wage a worthy war on crime by standing up for your rights. Recent legislative enactments have evolved to rectify ruthless villains‘ wrongs. Ultimately, right always prevails.
About the Author
Crissie C. Luckey, JD is a freelance writer for MyCollegesandCareers.com. My Colleges and Careers helps people determine if an online education is right for them and helps them understand which online college courses they can choose from to reach their goals.