Taking proactive measures to defend yourself from the fast-growing crime of identity theft is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in this day and age of online transactions and commerce. Online search engines, such as Google, are not just for shopping anymore. Employers and lenders search online to find out information about you and frequently make decisions based solely on what they find. Here are five sure-fire methods to make sure that you do not become a crime statistic and that your online profile is the one you want to project.
1) Purchase a post office box. Post office boxes secure your mail under lock and key so thieves cannot get their hands on pre-approved credit cards or any other statements that contain your personal identifiable information. Standard post boxes are vulnerable to thieves when you try to mail your bills as well as when you receive them. Most post offices offer P.O. boxes at a very reasonable annual rate.
2) Purchase a shredder and use it on a regular basis. Paper trails are a common method by which thieves acquire your personal information. Shredding ALL copies of old bills, credit card statements, and anything containing your complete name and address should be shredded before it is thrown in the trash.
3) Review all credit card statements very carefully for mistakes and fraudulent charges. Make sure you recognize all of the merchants listed on your statement as ones with whom you have transacted business. If you spot a suspicious looking entry, call your credit card company immediately to find out more about this potential breach of your personal and credit information.
4) Safeguard your Social Security Number. Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Keep it at home in a safe and secure spot that only you and your spouse know about. This single number can give crooks access to your bank account and credit reports, leaving you extremely vulnerable to substantial losses. Never write your Social Security number on any of your checks or any other documents. Health insurance cards also can contain your Social Security number, so leave that card at home as well when you’re traveling or running errands.
5) Purchase a plan from a professional identity theft service provider. There are several quality providers on the market that offer security through a variety of service plans. Many offer a $1 million dollar insurance policy to protect you in case you fall victim to a thief while you’re a subscriber to their services. Monitoring all three major credit bureaus is also a feature most plans offer, and you can be instantly notified if any fraudulent activity is discovered. Other common plan features include notifying you of anyone convicted of sex crimes moving into your neighborhood, help with cancelling your credit cards and retrieving funds in case you lose your wallet, and address monitoring makes sure criminals are not trying to reroute your credit cards and bills to another location for nefarious purposes.