If you haven’t been an identity theft victim yourself, chances are good that you know someone who has been. Identity theft is rampant and shows no discrimination. It strikes the rich and famous with the same vengeance it strikes the butcher or baker. Identity thieves use both high-tech and low-tech tactics and usually attack the weakest link. Here are 5 tips for outsmarting identity theft.
1. Shred! Shred! Shred! Identity thieves still go through trash looking for personal information that can make it easier to steal an identity. Get a cross-cut shredder and use it diligently to destroy anything with personal information before it goes in the trash. That includes credit card statements, expired credit cards, pre-approved credit card applications—anything, really, with personal information.
2. Don’t let your guard down on social media. Realize that anything you post is never completely private—even if you delete it. Use common sense before sharing personal information with the world. Check your privacy settings. It’s amazing the identity footprint many people leave on social media sites—full date of birth, location, messages that indicate you are away from home (sometimes for a long time!).
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3. Never conduct personal business over WiFi. The risks of conducting personal business while you are at a coffee shop, the airport or any public place far outweigh the convenience. Don’t do it! Tech savvy identity thieves know how to snag your information, and snag it they will.
4. Keep tabs on your credit cards. Put time on your side by checking your accounts in between statements for unauthorized use. Know where your credit cards are at all times. If your credit card issuer offers the option of adding a photo to your credit card, do it!
5. Go paperless and use a locked mailbox for outgoing mail. Mail—both incoming and outgoing—often contains a wealth of personal information. In the wrong hands, that information can be used for identity theft. Go paperless to limit incoming mail. Deposit outgoing mail in a locked mailbox. The red flag that alerts a mail carrier that there is mail in your mailbox alerts identity thieves of the same thing.
No one can guarantee that you will not become an identity theft victim. It is impossible to control all of the places that have access to your personal information. But these tips can help you reduce your risk.
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