Daily, more people are falling victim to the crime of identity theft. Although many times the victims are unaware that their behavior is putting them at risk, they later realize that they should have taken more preventative measures from preventing themselves from becoming a statistic. By being a proactive participant, you can learn some tricks to prevent this from happening to you and ruining your credit. Some simple moves you can make:
- Eliminate the paper trail! Nearly every bank, employer, utility and financial institution provide their customers with options to opt out of receiving paper bills and statements and switch to electronic distribution of information or electronic payment methods. Not only will this reduce the quantity of documents with your personal information out there, but the move will help the environment as well.
- Lock it up! Remembering all login codes for your new electronic system may be so challenging that keeping a list may be convenient; however, it too is part of your paper trail. For a couple of hundred bucks, buy a fireproof safe and lock your "little black book," car titles, house deed, Social Security card, spare credit cards and passports in there just in case.
- Use your inside voice. If you need to make a call which requires you to reveal your personal information while in a public place make sure to speak softly and ensure no one is looking over your shoulder, as in one quick glance, they can memorize the number sequence to various accounts. Better yet, just leave those phone calls and Internet purchases for the privacy of your own home.
- Monitor your finances. Several times a week, you should check your online accounts to ensure that all the charges, debits and payments you expected to see are there and on schedule. Only by actively checking your information will you be able to catch something that seems out of the ordinary.
- Rip it to shreds! If no matter how hard you try, you still receive some type of paper trail, invest in a decent paper shredder and use it! By destroying personalized statements, pay stubs, old credit cards and checks on old accounts, you reduce the risk of your information getting into the wrong hands.
- Keep your mouth shut. If you call a credit card company to discuss an unexpected charge, you should expect them to ask you to verify personal information like your Social Security number, mother's maiden name and the like. However, if you receive an unsolicited phone call or email requesting such personal information, most likely it is a phishing scam. Remember "loose lips sink ships."
- Check out your credit reports. Annually the big three credit bureaus provide you with your credit history reports for free. Make sure to take advantage of it so you can monitor all the activity going on in your name. But only checking your credit once per year may not be enough. We recommend signing up for an identity theft protection service, like Go Identity Protect, which will monitor your credit report and notify you of any funny business.
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