7 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Make Sure You’re the Only One with Your Identity
We hear about cases of stolen identity all the time. It is scary to even think about and even scarier to go through. Even if you’ve never experienced it personally, you have likely heard about how easily it can happen yet fail to hear how difficult it can be to recover in the aftermath.
Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft. First State Bank takes our clients’ security very seriously and has assembled a list of easy ways to secure your documents and protect yourself from identity theft.
1. Never Give Out Your Social Security Number
It may come as a given to some to never divulge those nine digits to a stranger, but it can happen more easily than you think. To protect yourself from identity theft, beware of scams—whether in person or online—that require you to give out your name, birthday, social security number or any other important identity details.
2. Keep an Eye Out for Mail
Check your mail as much as possible. If you have to go out of town, ask your post office to put your mail on hold for you until you return. Furthermore, if you are expecting a bill or other financial statement and it is late or does not arrive, contact the sender. Credit card bills, bank statements and preapproved credit card offers are easy gateways to your identity for thieves and dumpster divers.
3. Shred Your Documents
Many people tend to think of a trashcan as a one-stop shop. However, once you take out your trash, almost anyone can access it. If you toss your receipts and other encrypted financial documents, you could be at risk for identity theft. Be sure to always shred receipts, voided or cancelled checks, credit card and bank statements, preapproved credit card offers and any other documents containing important identity information.
4. Be on High Alert at ATMs
Watch your back—literally—when withdrawing cash or making deposits. Your credit card number and PIN are valuable numbers that you should hesitate in sharing, accidentally or otherwise. Protect yourself from identity theft by being aware of your surroundings and shading ATM screens when others are present.
5. Create Complex Passwords
One password that you use for multiple websites, email addresses and other online logins may seem convenient, but this bad habit can make stealing your identity too easy. Consider using a password generator to help you create complex passwords and safeguard your important documents and identity details.
6. Avoid Suspicious Online Sweepstakes
The Internet is a breeding ground for criminal activity. Beware of any online contests or offers that seem too good to be true. If you are asked to enter your credit card number, social security number or any other private and secure identity information, think twice if the website appears at all suspicious.
7. Install Firewalls and Virus-Detection Software on Your Personal Computer
You wouldn’t leave your house without locking the doors, and in the same way, you should secure your home computer. One wrong click can lead to the download of a nasty virus, but there are plenty of great virus-protection software options that you can download, often at little to no cost. A protected computer means protection from identity theft.
Doing your part to prevent identity theft requires only minor thought and effort. Taking any of these steps will help secure your identity and make you a less likely target for stolen identity, which has the potential to turn your life upside down.
If you believe or know that you have been a victim of identity theft, report it as soon as possible to your local police department and the Federal Trade Commission.