According to a survey conducted by Experian, one of the nation’s leading credit reporting agencies, some 81 percent of Americans rely on banks and credit card companies to monitor their accounts against instances of fraud.
While it’s OK to expect financial institutions to help, you’ll want to take advantage of these tips for thwarting identity theft too.
- Treat Your Social Security Card Like Gold — Because It Is
Anybody gaining access to your SSN, along with your address and the correct spelling of your name can spend your money without you realizing it until it’s too late.
Memorize your number so you don’t have to expose the card in public.
If anyone requests your Social Security number, ask why they need it and look for alternatives to providing it. Always keep your card under lock and key and out of sight.
- Set Your Phone to Lock Immediately
It only takes a momentary distraction to enable someone to lift your phone and be gone. If you set it down for moment unlocked , they’ll have access to your entire world — without needing your password.
Think of all of the personal information in your phone.
Now, think about how it could be used against you.
Need we say more?
Program your phone to erase itself after three unsuccessful attempts at your password. Along those same lines, register it with another device so you can wipe it remotely if it’s lost. Ditto your tablet and laptop.
- Collect Your Mail Every Day
Believe it or not, your pre-approved credit card offers can be responded to by anyone who gets control of them. Thus, it’s imperative to ensure nobody else does.
One simple change of address and that new card is going to someone else. Suddenly, your money is balling in the Bahamas while you’re busting your butt at work in Baltimore.
Opt out of paper offers from your issuers and destroy the ones you get before tossing them in the trash. When you are going to be away from home, always arrange for a trusted friend or neighbor to clear your mailbox each day.
By the way, if your bills suddenly stop arriving, contact the companies behind them to find out why. Your mail could be getting intercepted.
- Shred Everything Before Discarding It
Remarkably, crooked-minded people are willing to work harder to steal than earn. They think nothing of going through your garbage to harvest information they can use to gain access to your finances.
Shred every single piece of paper you discard in the trash.
This will give them reams of confetti through which they must sort to find your account information. Cross cutting, rather than linear shredders provide the best protection.
These precautions should be taken with all financially oriented mail and documents. This even applies to collection notices and correspondence with debt relief companies. You’d be amazed what hackers can do with seemingly innocuous information.
- Review Your Credit Report Annually
You are entitled by law to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies yearly. Get it every year and go over it carefully.
Look for changes — especially new accounts opened since your previous review took place. This can help you catch thieves before they have time to do irreversible damage.
- Avoid Public WiFi
It’s way too easy for someone in a hotel, airport, bus station or train terminal to monitor and intercept traffic going over public routers. Wait until you get home to pay that bill, make that transfer or buy things online.
Transmitting financial information out in the open is like walking out of your house, leaving the front door wide open — after you’ve told everyone on social media you’ll be away for ten days.
These basic tips for thwarting identity theft will go a long way toward keeping your money where it belongs — under your control.
Got any others?
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