How To Prevent Identity Theft

How much information does someone really need to know in order to impersonate you? Below are some tips you can follow to help secure and protect your personally identifiable information and ensure that your identity or your credit have not been compromised.

1. Watch for shoulder-surfers.When entering a PIN number or a credit card number in an ATM machine, at a phone booth, or even on a computer at work, be aware of who is nearby and make sure nobody is watching you over your shoulder.

2. Require photo ID verification. Rather than signing the backs of your credit cards, you can write “See Photo ID”. In many cases, store clerks don’t even look at the signature block on the credit card, and a thief could just as easily use your credit card to make online or telephone purchases which don’t require signature verification, but for those rare cases where they do actually verify the signature, you may get some added security by directing them to also make sure you match the picture on the photo ID.

3. Shred everything. One of the ways that would-be identity thieves acquire information is through “dumpster-diving”, aka trash-picking. If you are throwing out bills and credit card statements, old credit card or ATM receipts, or even junk-mail solicitations for credit cards and mortgages, you may be leaving too much information laying about.

4. Destroy digital data. When you sell, trade or otherwise dispose of a computer system, or a hard drive, or even a record-able CD, DVD or backup tape, you need to take extra steps to ensure the data is completely, utterly and irrevocably destroyed. For CD, DVD or tape media you should physically destroy it by breaking or shattering it before disposing of it. There are shredders designed specifically to shred CD / DVD media.

5. Pay your bills at the post office. Never leave your paid bills in your mailbox to be sent out. A thief who raids your mailbox would be able to acquire a slew of critical information in one envelope- your name, address, credit account number, your bank information including the routing number and account number from the bottom of the check, and a copy of your signature from your check for forgery purposes just for starters. Drop your bills at the post office or at least in an official U.S. Postal Service drop box to ensure that doesn'’t happen.

6. Protect your Social Security number. They expect it to last your whole life, the Social Security card is issued on very flimsy cardboard that doesn’t hold up well to wear and tear. Aside from that though, knowing your full name, address and full Social Security Number, or even the last 4 digits in many cases, can let a thief assume your identity. You should never use your Social Security Number as any part of a username or password that you establish and you should never divulge it to telephone solicitors or in response to spam or phishing scam emails either.

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