The only person I ever knew that was excited to have his identity stolen was a man that works for Legal Shield. The day he discovered it, he looked like a kid on Christmas. I saw him across the room with his eyes sparkling and a huge smile on his face. “I was hit” he said with enthusiasm, “Someone tried to order an Xbox with my information!” I cannot imagine that anyone else I know would have the same reaction. It got me thinking that I should protect myself better and at least know what to do if disaster strikes. So, here are 7 things you can do to help protect yourself from identity theft.
1. Don’t carry around more personal information around than necessary. This includes pin numbers, extra credit cards, a passport and a Social Security card. You can visit the Department of Social Security official website and download a guide on protecting your Social.
2. Keep informed of the latest scam. Scam artist are crafty and “phish” by pretending to be banks and stores that you frequently shop. Protect yourself by never giving your user name and password or pin number to strange callers and emails. Your financial institution will never ask you for your online banking password.
3. Buyer Beware. Shopping online is fast and easy but it can also be a great place for hackers to get your information. Only enter personal information on secure Web pages with “https” and a padlock in the address bar. This is a great indication that your information is encrypted and protected.
4. Know the signs. Many of us discard mail before really reading it or even opening it. If you receive what might be a change of address form from the Postal Service, student loan information that you didn’t apply for, or information from the IRS that more than one tax return was filed for you – this could be a red flag that someone has high jacked your credit.
5. Stop pre-approved credit card offers. They make a tempting target for identity thieves who steal your mail. Have your name removed from credit bureau marketing lists. Call toll-free 1-888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688). Or opt out online at www.optoutprescreen.com.
6. Don’t leave personal information anywhere! I am guilty of getting a receipt from an ATM and throwing it in a trash can that is provided just a few feet away. It is best to tear up or shred unwanted receipts, credit card offers and account statements to prevent dumpster divers from getting all of your personal information.
7. Make sure Santa is the ONLY one watching you at the ATM. The holiday season is a time that identity thieves are shopping too. They know that you are busy and thinking more about what to get Uncle Sal than looking around to make sure no one is watching you enter your pin. Don’t feel naughty about shielding a pin pad or tablet from on lookers.
If you have the slightest suspicion that your identity has been compromised, get your credit report and place a fraud alert on your credit reports immediately!