Tips To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
While nothing can guarantee that you won’t become a victim of identity theft, you can minimize your risk, and minimize the damage if a problem develops, by making it more difficult for identity thieves to access your personal information. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises consumers to protect themselves by doing the following:
Protect Your Social Security number
Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. If your state uses your Social Security number as your driver’s license number, ask to substitute another number. Do the same if your health insurance company uses your Social Security number as your policy number.
To thwart an identity thief who may pick through your trash or recycling bins to capture your personal information, always shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards that you’re discarding, and credit offers you get in the mail.
The internet can leave you vulnerable to online scammers, identity thieves and more. For practical tips to help you be on guard against internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information, visit the http://www.OnGuardOnline.gov, a website maintained by the FTC and which is dedicated to informing consumers about identity theft and online scams.
Protect Yourself When File-sharing
Peer to peer (P2P) file-sharing programs present a risk when it comes to identity theft. That is because when you are connected to P2P file-sharing programs, you may unknowingly allow others to copy files from your computer — like bank records and tax returns — that you do not intend to share. Identity thieves can use your personal information to open new accounts in your name or raid existing accounts.
Select Intricate Passwords
Place passwords on your credit card, bank, and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number or your phone number, a series of consecutive numbers, or a single word that would appear in a dictionary. Combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters make the strongest passwords.
Verify a Source Before Sharing Information
Do not give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet unless you’ve initiated the contact and are sure you know who you’re dealing with. Identity thieves are clever, and may pose as representatives of banks, Internet service providers (ISPs), and even government agencies to get people to reveal their Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, account numbers, and other identifying information.
Safeguard Your Purse and Wallet
Protect your purse and wallet at all times. Don’t carry your Social Security number or card; leave it in a secure place. Carry only the identification information and the credit and debit cards that you’ll actually need when you go out.
Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your house. Share your personal information only with those family members who have a legitimate need for it. Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work. Do the same with copies of administrative forms that have your sensitive personal information.
If you are a victim of consumer fraud, contact Consumer Fraud Online to discuss your options.