Understanding the main causes of identity theft is the first step to preventing it. There are some common methods thieves use to steal your information. Many of these methods are easy to prevent once you understand them.
Lost or Stolen
Lost or stolen wallets, purses, and checkbooks are an easy way for thieves to get access to your information. In a single wallet they may find your driver’s license, which, in some states, also has your SSN on it. Your date of birth is on the license too, as well as your address, making it easy for thieves to open up accounts in your name. If you carry your SSN card with you there’s another point of vulnerability, and of course, there are all of your credit cards. If your wallet is lost or stolen you should call and put a credit alert on all three credit reports right away. This will require any new creditor to contact you and ask for specific details before they can open up any new accounts in your name. Don’t carry your SSN card with you to stay on the safe side (you can only replace up to 10 in your lifetime anyway) and report all of your credit cards lost or stolen the moment the issue comes up. Make sure that you alert the police and fill out a report, as well.
Failure to Shred
Throwing your documents away without shredding them is one of the worst things you can do. Dumpster divers can pull all sorts of information from bills, bank statements, and other important documents that wind up in the trash. If you’re not going to invest in a shredder you should, at the very least, rip up the documents to make them harder to decipher or scratch out the most relevant information.
Mail theft is another way that I.D. thieves typically operate, and it’s a bit harder to protect yourself from. As bank statements are a common target use direct deposit and paperless statements from your bank to circumvent these thieves. Go paperless with trusted billing sources wherever possible.
Some ID thieves aren’t quite what you might expect—that is, they’re your family members or friends who you trust and who can get access to your personal information. This can range from the unscrupulous granddaughter using grandma’s credit history to apply for a department store card all the way to long term theft. This can be one of the most difficult sorts of theft to prevent. Keep your documents locked up at home to prevent temptation. This will also prove an effective deterrent to babysitters or repair people who might have access to your home.
From war drivers who steal your information by tapping into your unsecured wireless internet account to phishers creating false sites, online theft is a menace. It’s also fast and sometimes very difficult to detect. Always verify that you’re on the correct websites before offering any credit card information. Deal only with websites you know and trust. And get your wireless internet secured right away.
Telemarketers or unsolicited e-mails: either carry the danger that you are talking to a fraudster who is after your information. Never share your social security number, account numbers, or other data over the phone or via e-mail. The same goes for user names and passwords. Legitimate businesses never ask for such things over e-mail, and they never call you to get them, either.