Identity Theft

How to Stay Safe from Identity Theft

stolen identityIdentity theft is a crime that affects a lot of people all over the world. Criminals illegally acquire personal data from unsuspecting members of the public which they use to steal from them. They use stolen credit cards, social security numbers and phone or email contacts to commit fraud. On average, over 9 million Americans are affected by this kind of white collar crime each year. While banks and other finance organizations do everything they can to curb this growing menace, there are things individuals can do to protect themselves.

Make it harder to access information

Most people use their computers to log onto websites where they share their personal information such as credit card details or social security numbers. One of the best ways to secure personal information online is to make use of strong passwords which should be changed frequently. A strong password should include lower case and upper case letters, numbers and possibly other characters. It should be at least 6 characters long. Simple passwords such as dates of birth, mother’s maiden names, pet names and similar ones should be discarded as soon as possible.

Minimize contents of a wallet

When a wallet gets lost or stolen, the fear is hardly losing the money in it but documents containing personal information such as driver’s license credit cards and others.  Credit monitoring companies are advising people to carry the bare minimum documents. This minimizes the risk of so much information ending up in the hands of criminals. It is especially important to never carry anything with a social security number on it.

Personal information should be secured

More and more people nowadays store their personal information and financial details on computers. If this is the case then the computer needs to be protected by a firewall. A reliable firewall can easily be installed onto a personal computer. Other software products should be used such as antivirus and anti-spy software. If the network used is unsecure such as a wireless network, then it should be made secure. Any documents that have to be thrown out or disposed of should be shredded first to minimize chances of criminals laying their hands on them.

Frequent checking of bank account statements and credit card reports

All bank account statements and credit card reports should be reviewed regularly. Customers of financial institutions such as banks should check their credit card reports and bank statements on a weekly basis to ensure there are no fraudulent charges. Criminals sometimes attempt to slip in small charges hoping account owners won’t notice them. If any anomaly is noted, then the bank or financial institution should be informed so they check for any possible case of identity theft.

Avoid phishing emails and online scams

Sometimes criminals send email scams to unsuspecting customers and claim to be reputable organizations such as banks. These emails may request recipients to click on a link or provide certain personal information. These phishing scams should instead be discarded as spam or better still, forwarded to the IRS for further investigation and action.