One of the most disturbing statistics about identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission, is that 80% of victims do not know how their identity was stolen. They can’t point to any event or activity that resulted in them being victimized.
Additional statistics tell us that within the past year about 4.6% of the population had their identity stolen. In another report, 750,000 Americans each year become a victim of identity theft. I have been a victim and I know more than one person that has as well.
The good news is it is not that difficult to protect yourself from identity theft. It’s my feeling that the majority of the victims are simply careless people who make up the low hanging fruit for identity theft criminals. By implementing a few simple strategies you can drastically reduce the chances of you becoming a victim.
How To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
Knowing how to prevent identity theft is knowing how not to be easy pickings for identity thieves. It’s not that hard to make yourself “too much trouble” for the suspecting thieve, making him or her want to move on to the next potential victim.
1-Purchase a heavy-duty shredder and shred all your credit card statements, bank statements, and any piece of mail that has your name and address on it. Get into the habit of shredding anything that contains any personal information about you. There are people that actually pick through garbage to steal your identity. Pay particular attention to preapproved credit card offers that you may receive. Do not, I repeat do not throw these in the trash intact.
2- Are you receiving too many credit card offers or offers to take out loans and refinance your mortgage? Each instant of a credit card offer is one more doorway for a identity thief to enter into your financial world. You can opt out of the list that credit card companies use to get your mailing address and name. Simply call 1-888-567-8688 and asked them to remove your name from the mailing list. Likewise, you also receive a lot of unsolicited marketing phone calls? You can add yourself to the do not call list by calling 1-888-382-1222.
3- Make it a practice to monitor your credit report on a monthly basis. It is your right to receive a free copy of your credit report, and you can do so by calling 1-877-322-8228. Alternatively, you can subscribe to a membership credit report monitoring service. These services usually cost around $10 a month and can save you a lot of time. They send you email updates when any major change or suspicious activity occurs. Many people don’t know that their identity has been stolen until long after it happened. By signing up for a credit monitoring service, you can be notified as it’s happening.
4- Don’t let mail sit in your mailbox overnight. Identity thieves drive around neighborhoods checking mailboxes for low hanging fruit. Collect your mail daily. Be sure to report it to the post office immediately if you believe your mail has been stolen.
5- Do not share your personal information in emails or on the Internet, not even with close friends or family members. If a family member emails you asking for the home Wi-Fi password because they forgot it, it could be a identity thief posing as your sister. Understand what Phishing is, how to spot it and not become a victim of it. Phishing is one of the main ways that identity thieves steal victim’s identities over the Internet. Basically, a phishing scam is when an identity thief poses as your bank using a very convincing email and spoof website to get you to reveal your username and password. No bank or any other website on the Internet that requires a username and password will ever require you to reveal it in an email. If you are ever asked to reveal personal information, call the company or bank over the phone.
6-Use unique, strong passwords for each and every account you have on the Internet. Don’t worry about having to remember so many passwords. I wrote a post on password managers. This way you can have unique, strong passwords without having to memorize them all. Even the most experienced hackers will never be able to hack into.
Make it a habit to follow these practices. The best identity theft protection is knowing how not to be the “low hanging fruit” for identity thieves. It may be time-consuming in the beginning, but like anything as time goes on it will become second nature. And, whatever little money and time you might have to spend on protecting your identity will never be as annoying, burdensome, and stress producing as having to spend years digging your way out of the resulting disaster of having your identity stolen.
Please comment below if you have any questions or any other tips on how to protect your identity.