Identity theft is a serious and very personal crime, affecting every aspect of your life. Thieves can empty your bank account, max out your credit cards, open new accounts in your name, and make big purchase such as cars, furniture or even homes. They may even give your personal information to the police during an arrest and, if they don’t show up for a court date, you may be subsequently arrested and jailed.
You may never be able to completely prevent your identity from being stolen, but here are some steps you can take to help protect yourself from becoming a victim.
Check it out
It’s important to review your credit report periodically to ensure that all information contained is correct. Be on the lookout for any inaccuracies or fraudulent activity. You may get your credit report for free every year at www.annualcreditreport.com.
If you need to correct any information or dispute any entries, contact the three national credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Secure Your Number
Your most important personal identifier is your Social Security number (SSN); limiting who has access to this number is a vital step in preventing identity theft. Never carry your Social Security card with you unless you’ll need it. The same goes for other forms of identification that may display your SSN. If your state uses your SSN as your driver’s license number, request an alternate number. Don’t have your SSN preprinted on checks and don’t let merchants write it on your checks. Don’t give it out over the phone unless you initiate the call to an organization you trust. Lastly, avoid listing it on employment applications; offer instead to provide it during a job interview.
Don’t Leave Home with It
Most of us carry our checkbooks, debit cards, and all of our credit cards with us all the time. That’s a bad idea; if your wallet or purse is stolen, the thief will have a gold mine of financial accounts to work with.
Instead, carry only the cards and/or checks you’ll need for any one trip. And keep a written record of all your account numbers, credit card expiration dates, and the telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud departments in a secure place in your home.
Instead of Tossing, Shred it
Before you throw out any financial records — including credit or debit card receipts and statements, canceled checks, or even offers for credit you receive in the mail — shred the documents, preferably with a cross-cut shredder. If you don’t shred these documents, your identity can be exposed to anyone who stumbles upon your trash.
By Ambassador Advisors
Sponsored by Willow Valley Communities