Four Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

by Jessica Sommerfield · 2 comments

At some point or another all of us have thrown those annoying credit card offers directly in the trash without a second thought. What you may not realize is that by doing so you are making yourself vulnerable to identity theft. About 9 million Americans fall prey to identity theft every year. Although you don’t need to lie awake at night worrying about it, following a few practical steps can help you protect yourself from becoming a victim of these subtle thieves.

Shred any junk mail or paperwork that contains your name, address, or any other personal information.  We all know to shred personal files, but an unopened credit card offer or billing statement can be one of the easiest items for an identity thief to use. A little dumpster diving is all they have to do to obtain a line of credit with your personal information. They can file for a change of address so you remain completely unaware until you start receiving phone calls from creditors and lenders, or check your credit report.  Some identity thieves can go so far as to purchase a house with stolen information! The small expense of a shredder is well worth the potential identity theft it will save you.

Be careful when purchasing items with a debit or credit card, especially over the phone or online. Most well-known merchants can be trusted, but be leery of questionable new businesses or ‘one time offers’, especially over the phone. When shopping online, use only reputable sites with strong security. Even if the online retailer you are shopping with is not stealing your information, hackers may be able to if their site is vulnerable.

Carefully check your bank and billing statements. It can be easy to get in the habit of only skimming your statements, but you may be missing small details that point to identity theft.  These types of thieves often make small withdrawals or purchases in amounts you would normally make so as not to arouse suspicion. Check every transaction and if you see anything suspicious, don’t hesitate to call your bank, lender, or service provider.

Check your credit report regularly. Even if you do all of these things, you may still be the victim of identity theft. The more frequently you request and review your credit report, the sooner you will able to catch potential abuses of your financial information. Bad credit can ruin your potential for purchases in the future, so be sure to seek corrections for any charges you did not make.

If you discover suspicious activity on your credit report, investigate it. You may need to file an Identity Theft Report with the police to protect your legal rights against liability for purchases made with your stolen identity and to protect yourself from future abuses.

Don’t fall victim to identity theft. By utilizing these four simple procedures, you can protect your identity and your finances from unnecessary exploitation.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Priswell September 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm

We shred *and compost* our junk mail. Small chance of anybody getting info that way after the worms have been at it for a while.

Joe Paterson January 30, 2013 at 12:51 pm

You may also want to use RFID card covers for you credit and debit cards and larger one for passport.
With so many free wi-fi spots now all the identity thief needs is a computor with a radio frequency scanner.

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