Identity theft is an extremely prevalent crime. It costs people incredible amounts of time, energy and money to clear up problems created by identity theft. Unfortunately, most people are at risk for becoming victims of this type of crime. Learning ways to protect yourself and your identity can help you avoid becoming a victim of this crime. Here are 8 ways that you can protect yourself and your identity from thieves:
- Never reveal your personal identification number (PIN) for any credit or debit card to anyone. Be especially cautious when using public ATM machines. Memorize your PIN number and do not write it down on anything you carry with you on your person or carry in your purse or wallet.
- Collect your mail every day. Never leave it in your mailbox overnight. Thieves are known to raid mailboxes for credit card offers, statements, pay stubs, and other items that contain highly personal information that could jeopardize your identity. Thieves can apply for credit using your name and personal information, and run up huge bills before it ever comes to your attention. By then, it’s too late.
- Immediately report any lost or stolen credit cards to your bank to ensure that you will not be held responsible for any charges incurred when they were not in your possession.
- When making a purchase over the phone or online, be sure to verify the identity of the person you are giving your credit card number to. Never reveal your credit card information to an unsolicited caller or telemarketer.
- Frequently change your passwords on your online bank accounts and email accounts. Phishing scams are notorious for gaining access to personal information very easily, even from people who would consider themselves quite savvy about protecting their personal information.
- Shred your personal mail before throwing it away. This is especially important for bank statements, credit card offers and statements, payroll information, or anything else that may have your information on it. When throwing out credit cards, even if the account is closed or the card is expired, be sure to cut the card into multiple pieces. It is best to throw the pieces out in different garbage cans, as well to further separate the information. You would be astounded at how many identity thieves are willing to paw through plenty of garbage to obtain the sensitive information.
- Review every bank statement and credit card statement carefully, and do so in a timely manner. It is far more difficult to go back and dispute charges after several weeks or months have passed.
- Review a copy of your personal credit report on an annual basis. Ensure that each and every account is one that you control. Be sure to check and verify that no accounts have been delinquent. If you notice any discrepancies at all, immediately contact the credit company to report the errors as well as the credit reporting agency to attempt to clear up any confusion or inaccuracies.
These tips should be common sense for everyone, but too many people fall victim to identity thieves and it takes years to recover from having your personal information and credit compromised. Protect yourself by taking the necessary precautionary steps!