I was speaking with someone this week who had been the victim of identity theft — and I was again reminded what a personal and financial toll identity theft can have on its victims. Here are a few simple ways that you can help protect yourself from being a victim of identity theft:
Monitor your credit report (at least) annually.
Recently, Rhonda Porter blogged about how you can have your credit monitored for free as a result of litigation — so it is now easier than ever to monitor your credit report on an ongoing basis and not just once-per-year.
Secure your mail.
Does your mailbox have a lock on it? If not, you may want to get a lock or even set things up so that your mail is delivered to the post office directly. Many times unsecure mailboxes are contributing to the problem.
Electronic keypad signatures.
When you sign your name on the electronic pad at the checkout register, add the date to your signature.
Safeguard your social security number.
Don’t carry your ss card with you (what happens when you lose your wallet?) and make sure that you know exactly what is happening with it when you give it out.
Destroy all bank/financial statements and solicitations.
Don’t just throw your old bank statements in the trash — shred them! ATM receipts? Shred them! Same thing goes for all of those pesky credit card offers — shred them!
Always review your bank/credit card statements.
Make sure that all of the charges listed are actually yours and if not, contact your credit card/bank right away.
Remove bar codes from magazines before throwing them away.
These bar codes tell volumes about you — don’t let them fall into the wrong hands. Remove the bar code labels and shred them. The magazine itself? You can just put that in the trash (recycle trash bin is blue in Arizona!) because it doesn’t have any of your personal information other than the bar code label on the front.
Keep your medical insurance card safe.
Medical ID theft is the newest wave of identity theft.
If you pay your bills by check:
Make sure to put your work phone and address on your checks, not your personal home information.
Will following these steps mean that you can rest easy knowing that you are never going to be a victim of identity theft? Of course not. Even with doing all of these things, you still need to be on the lookout at all times and make sure that you protect who you are — or at least who the banks/reporting agencies/whoever else thinks you are.