The aftermath a person must go through after having their identity stolen can arguably be one of the greatest hassles to dig yourself out of. Unfortunately, once bad marks have been placed on your identity, it is up to you to prove that you are innocent; unlike the judicial system’s theory of being innocent until proven guilty. It takes blood, sweat and most often tears to collect the information needed and deal with the institutions that have marked against you. Identity theft is a malicious act that continues to grow throughout the United States. While anyone can be at risk for an attack against their identity, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself and make your identity less appealing to steal. So practice precaution and take these steps to help protect your identity from theft.
Protect Your Social Security Number (SSN)
This is the most important number associated to you. It proves your citizenship and also tracks your every financial move. This number is needed to open credit cards, apply for loans and many other serious acts. If someone has your name and social security number they can do a lot of damage very fast. It is best to memorize your number and to keep your actual card in a safe place, like a fireproof safe or bank deposit box. Only give your social security number out when it is absolutely necessary. It is much too risky to carry your social security card in your purse – it could be lost or stolen and you would be handing your identity over on a plate to the person who took it or found it.
Shred Your Documents
If you currently just throw away your bills and other financial documents, stop. There is important information that identity thieves can use to steal your identity on those documents. The best way to dispose of this information is by shredding it. It is also advised to shred anything that has your name or address on it. Do not give a thief any reason to target you – simply destroy anything they could use to try and become you.
Be Aware of Phising
Understand that there are identity thieves out there that will do everything they can to make themselves look official, they will call you on the telephone, email you and even text you alerting that there is a problem and to correct it you need to give them your private information, like account numbers, social security number, etc. Never simply give this information back. If a company calls you asking for this type of information, simply tell them you will call them back and finish the phone call. Then find your documentation about this company and call the number you find – not the one they have given you. It is so much better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your identity. The same with emails and text messages, never respond directly to them. Oftentimes these attempts at getting your information are malicious so it is always best to contact the company directly to see if they truly sent you correspondence and need further validation.
Social media can also pose a risk to your identity and sometimes you might be the one putting your friends identity at risk!
Use Random Passwords
Today our life can be managed from a computer – practically every service can be linked online with a simple login and password connecting to your personal information. Choose your passwords carefully and make sure they cannot be easily tied to you. For example, do not use your birthday, children’s birthdays, etc. It is also advised to have a different password for each account, that way if one of your passwords is compromised your entire life is not easily accessible. The most secure passwords are those that contain letters in both upper and lower cases mixed upon numbers. They should be chosen at random. If you need to write your passwords down, keep them in a safe place just as you do with your social security number.
Review Your Credit Report
Another great way to protect your identity is to periodically review your credit report. This will be the first place you can see malicious activity and by watching this, at least once a year you can hopefully catch problems before they get too sticky. If you find negative marks or accounts you never opened act immediately. You are allowed one free credit report a year, so there is no excuse to not monitor your information.