Victims of identity theft often find themselves in financial trouble with credit cards, banks, credit collectors. The average amount of time victims spend trying to regain their financial health is 175 hours, hours spent making phone calls, writing letters, getting affidavits signed. Sadly, there’s so much identity fraud happening that most cases aren’t even pursued by authorities and the burden falls almost entirely on the victim.
Considering all that, you’d think people would protect their identity very carefully. But, the truth is, the biggest threat to you having your identity stolen is your own carelessness. Not that protecting yourself is easy, and it gets harder all the time.
If you don’t want to have your identity stolen and you also don’t want to hide out and only use cash, you have to protect yourself.
Tips to protect yourself from identity theft
- Don’t give personal information over the phone to unexpected callers.
- Don’t give personal information on web pages reached through email links.
Institutions dealing with financial information rarely make unsolicited phone calls or send emails asking you to submit information. If you feel a need to respond, call or email back after finding the contact information from an official source not connected to the caller or email.
- Don’t put too much personal information on social media “about you” pages.
If you include your full birth-date, hometown, parents’ names, where you work, your address, phone number on a platform that is public, you’re making it really easy for someone to steal it. Check your security settings carefully and keep details vague.
- Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet.
- Check to make sure your other identification cards don’t list your social security number.
Sure, it’s convenient for you and it’s also convenient for that pickpocket who has your drivers’ license, credit cards, social security number and all your cash. That’s just way too convenient. Memorize your social security number and keep your social security card somewhere it can be locked.
Speaking of conveniences, there are a few shortcuts you should not take.
- Never access bank or other sensitive personal information over public WiFi Install virtual private network software (VPN) software to encrypt information on all mobile devices.
- Tear up mail with your name on it before throwing it away and use a shredder on financial documents.
- Don’t leave outgoing mail in your home box where it can be stolen, put it in official boxes or take it to the post office.
- Never let online retailers save your credit card number so you don’t have to reenter when you return.
A company storing customer credit card numbers is pretty likely to be hacked. Don’t trust them with keeping your information safe. Every time you give someone your personal information (DMV, credit card company, healthcare provider, eBay, etc), you lose a little bit of control over where it goes and how it’s used. Breaches happen.
These tips may seem inconvenient, but they’ve got nothing on the inconvenience of trying to establish your financial health after you’ve been the victim of identity theft. Despite how easy these tips are, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States http://www.crimemuseum.org/Identity_Theft.html. You need to do what you can to protect yourself.