Remember being taught to yell “Stranger Danger” in school? Sadly, today’s world is not safe for anyone, young and old alike. Criminals are targeting everyone, not just the unsuspecting elderly. Identity theft protection is a growing business. An identity thief will try anything and everything to gain access to your information. Keeping your identity secure is getting tougher each day. But what is identity theft exactly and how/ where do you get identity theft protection?
Dictionary .com defines identity theft as, “the crime of setting up and using bank accounts and credit facilities fraudulently in another person’s name without his or her knowledge.”1
The Collins English Dictionary defines identity theft as, “the stealing of a person’s financial information, especially Credit cards and Social Security numbers, with the intention of using that data to commit fraud and create a phony persona2.
Giving out your credit card information to purchase a pair of boots from and online store, filling out an online job application, and setting up mobile banking on your smart phone are all potentials for identity theft. Knowing this makes many people choose not to have the internet at all. Avoidance is not the best way guard your identity, however. Thieves will steal your trash to get to your information. Each time you pay for a meal at a restaurant with your credit card or pay for a hair cut with your debit card, an identity will take that number, draining your bank account or running up your credit limit. But there are ways to prevent this from happening to you.
Here are seven very simple ways to protect identity theft.
Shredders- we’re not talking about a villain in a turtle movie here
Identity thieves can steal your identity without even using a computer. Purchasing a small paper shredder that fits right over your trash can, and shredding your documents before you throw them in the trash is the best way to prevent someone from stealing your identity. Cross-cut and micro-cut shredders make confetti out of your sensitive documents making it impossible for anyone to steal your information.
Check your statements
Check and double check your statements regularly to verify that the charges to your bank account or credit card are the ones you authorized. Many banks and credit card companies now offer a fraud alert that sends you a text if they feel there is a fraudulent purchase going to your account(s).
Trust no one
If you receive a phone call from someone requesting your social security, driver’s license, or credit/debit card number, ask who they are and who they represent first. Get the number to call them back and verify that the company even exists. Many times identity thieves will pose as a representative from your bank asking for you information for verification. Get a number and call them back. If the number you call is not the place they say they are from, or that person does not exist, call the police immediately. Never assume that someone who calls you to verify your information is legitimate.
Just because it is on the internet, does not mean it is safe. Many web browsers have a padlock or shield symbol in the address bar just in front of the web address you are accessing, which means that the site you are on is safe. Be careful just the same with all websites you visit. Use PayPal instead of a credit card to make purchases or password protect your credit card and bank accounts.
Change your passwords regularly and use hard to crack passwords
Changing your passwords online seems like a tedious task, especially if you have many accounts. By changing the passwords regularly, you thwart an identity thief from getting access to your information. Clear out your internet cache and opt not to save and remember your password while online is one way to protect your online identity.
Purchase identity guard/protection software
Antivirus, identity guard software, and VPN services offer top-notch protection to protect your identity online. By encrypting your information and your IP address, you can surf the web freely and safely without worry.
Letting others know how to protect their identity from thieves and to talk with them about it keeps the lines of communication open. The more you know, the safer you are. Keep up to date with the latest technologies and stay informed about how law enforcement is doing its part to keep you safe.
A pinch of due diligence and a dash of common sense will keep you and your family safe from the insidious world of identity theft. Identity thieves are opportunists who will take every opening they see to get what they want. Do not let them take you for a ride. Protect your identity at all costs, both at home and online.
1- Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc.
2- Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012