Top 20 Identity Theft Prevention Tips
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States. Last year, approximately 10 million Americans became victims of identity theft, which cost them a total of 5 billion dollars, or over $5,000 per victim. Nearly half of identity theft victims find out about their losses within 3 months, and less than one-fourth find out that they are identity theft victims within four years. It takes victims, on average, between 1 and 243 days to rectify the damage done by identity thieves. Almost half of the victims have difficulties in obtaining loans and credit cards as a result of identity theft.
Value Your Personal Information Highly
Individuals should protect themselves against identity theft by protecting their personal information, especially highly sensitive items, like bank account and social security numbers. Even if identity thieves are able to obtain one piece of confidential information, they can still do significant damage. Therefore, it is important for individuals to recognize how their personal information is stolen, and what they can do to prevent this from occurring.
Although the best way to prevent identity theft is to use an identity theft service, individuals can further reduce their chances of becoming identity theft victims by following these commonsense prevention tips:
1) Individuals should not carry unnecessary credit cards or identification cards in their purses or wallets – this will minimize the amount of information a thief can steal.
2) Individuals should also photocopy all of the documents in their wallets in case of theft. That way, if their wallet is stolen, individuals can quickly retrieve numbers.
3) Individuals should not click on links from financial institutions, even if they appear to be legitimate – these emails could be from identity thieves trying to obtain, or “phish” for, confidential information. It is always best to go to the financial institution’s domain web address.
4) Individuals should always have secure mailboxes, both at work and at home, in order to reduce the likelihood of theft.
5) Make sure to install a firewall along with anti-virus and anti-spyware software. All three should be kept up-to-date. This will prevent viruses and thieves from accessing information.
6) Never leave a purse or wallet unattended in a car, at a restaurant or at a party, and never leave a purse or wallet in open view in a car, even though it may be locked.
7) Never toss credit card or other receipts in a public trashcan – always keep them in a secure place or shred them before tossing out. Identity thieves oftentimes dig through trash to find personal information.
8) Destroy all checks, debit cards and credit cards upon closing an account – thieves can easily obtain these things, and run up bills fraudulently.
9) Individuals should check their monthly bank statements in a timely fashion, and challenge any unauthorized purchases.
10) Individuals should cancel any inactive credit accounts, and limit the number of credit cards. This will make it easier to keep tabs on all credit activity.
11) Individuals should request to have their social security numbers removed from their personal checks.
12) Individuals should minimize the exposure of their credit and social security numbers, and never give their social security numbers or account numbers out over the phone even if they made the call. Identity thieves often place fake calls in an attempt to gather personal information.
13) Never write any passwords to accounts down. Instead, memorize them.
14) Individuals should be aware of their surroundings while using an ATM, making sure that no one is looking over their shoulders.
15) Individuals should keep a list of all their credit and bank accounts in a secure place. This way, individuals can quickly call issuers if a credit or debit card is stolen.
16) Shred all junk mail before tossing them out – this will prevent identity thieves from finding confidential information in the trash.
17) If individuals do not receive their billing information promptly, they should notify any companies involved.
18) Individuals should analyze their utility bills along with any subscription bills for any unauthorized changes.
19) Individuals should never have their banks send new checks to their homes – thieves can easily snatch them. Instead, individuals should opt to pick up their new checks directly from the bank.
20) Always obtain a free yearly credit score from TransUnion, Experian or Equifax, and analyze it for any suspicious activity.
Because identity theft is one of the largest and fastest-growing crimes in the U.S., it is important for all individuals to protect against it. The best way to do this is to sign up for a reputable identity theft protection service, and to protect all confidential information by following the above commonsense tips. If individuals follow these tips, they will greatly reduce the chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.