7 Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Over 11.9 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2011. That’s nearly 4 percent of the American population. That statistic clearly shows that you have greater odds of getting your identity stolen than winning the lottery.
Scary, isn’t it?
If identity theft doesn’t scare you, it should. Identity theft victims can suffer years with denied credit, erroneous collection activity, and even tax implications — not to mention the emotional damage from stress. Avoid being a victim. Protect yourself with these seven tips.
1. MIND YOUR PURSE AND WALLET
When out and about don’t carry every credit card, debit card and bank account number with you. Limit the number of personal information items you have on you at all times.
Never have your social security card in a purse or a wallet. Keep a list of all account numbers and a contact number for the creditor locked in location that is readily available should you need it.
2. AVOID QUESTIONABLE STORES AND ONLINE MERCHANTS
If you are unfamiliar with specific merchant, research them online or look for more information on them with the Better Business Bureau. You could be happy you did.
When going to restaurants and stores, don’t let your debit or credit card out of sight! Avoid places where you have to give your card to someone else to run it, use cash whenever possible.
3. PROTECT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION
The most basic personal information is often the only information that is actually needed to commit fraud. Your social security number and birthdate are often enough.
Never use those numbers as part of a username or something that is commonly seen by others.
4. BEWARE OF “PHISHING”
E-mails that are sent from a legitimate site will never ask you for your personal information, so if you ever see one that is coming from a bank or a creditor, be very wary.
Contact the institution who “sent the e-mail” right away for further instructions. If you’ve entered in your information, it’s possible that thieves already have it.
5. REVIEW CREDIT CARD AND BANKING STATEMENTS
Review all of your statements to verify that the charges were made were made by you and you alone. If you don’t recognize call the bank or financial institution right away to dispute the charge as there are time limits on disputes.
6. SHRED DOCUMENTS WITH SENSITIVE INFORMATION
Never toss in the garbage any paperwork with sensitive information on it. Thrown away statements and information make obtaining account numbers easy.
Shredding unneeded documents is probably one of the easiest ways to protect your identity.
7. REGULARLY REVIEW YOUR CREDIT REPORT AND SCORES
Each year you are entitled to a free credit report from all three of the major credit bureaus. These reports would be a good place to look for any sort of unusual activity, including new lines of credit and address listings.
Be diligent with your finances. Protect yourself and your family to get some peace of mind.
Want a second set of eyes to decipher your credit report? Contact LSS 888.577.2227 to schedule a Credit Report Review. Or if you want to set up a budget to conquer your debt, call us or visit our Debt Management Plan web page to get started online. It’s never too late to improve your finances — take action today!
Author Sarah Packingham is a DMP Specialist with LSS Financial Counseling.