Identify theft happens every day, and can take years to undo. Finances and personal lives can be damaged in the process, so the best way to prevent identity theft is to follow some or all of these tips below. Identity theft is real and can happen to you.
2. Invest in a good shredder, and shred all financial documents rather than throwing them away. (I personally love the Swingline Stack-and-Shred) Identify thieves look through people’s garbage. Even something as simple as your address and date of birth, when combined, can be valuable information for someone wanting to steal your identity. Especially make sure to shred your per-approved credit card applications. Don’t make yourself a target. Shred your documents
3. If giving your private information over the phone, make sure you are talking to a real representative from a real company. You can always ask for their number and extension, hang up, google it, and call them back if the number shows up on the official company’s website.
4. Do not carry your social security number or social insurance number with you. Rather keep it filed away at home.
5. Know that the IRS and Revenue Canada does not request personal information over the phone or internet. Knowing this, alone, will save you from a lot of scammers.
6. Do not give out private information over the phone or internet. In general, it is a bad idea.
7. Pick difficult to guess, but easy for you to remember, personal identification numbers (PIN #’s)
8. Hide your vehicle registration somewhere difficult to find in your car. Thieves will first look in your glovebox, and if not there, they often give up rather than risk being caught. Keep it somewhere easy to find in your car, but safe. We recommend in a plastic zip-lock bag in your trunk or somewhere else in your car. Same goes for auto insurance information. If stolen, it is an identity thief’s paradise.
9. Photocopy your credit cards, front and back, and keep a file. That way, if your wallet is stolen, you can quickly cancel your cards and take in account what is missing. Make sure to keep these in a safe place as these copies have everything a thief needs to have an online shopping spree. We recommend a fireproof safe hidden in a safe place in your home.
10. Make sure you are using a secure website (httpS – the “s” needs to show up) before paying your bills. Also do this from a secure computer with up-to-date antivirus software. The public library computer is not a good idea. Neither is any public computer, for the matter. If you absolutely have to log into banking, or other sensitive financial websites, on a public wifi network or shared computer we strongly recommend you do so while logged into a secure VPN.
11. When using an ATM or entering a Visa PIN number, make certain nobody is watching you. Theives often have video cameras or cell phone video recording from a distance to catch your PIN.
12. When mailing things, only use actual post boxes. For example, when staying at a hotel on vacation, do not use their “hotel mailbox” that they then take to the post office. It’s a target for identity thieves.
13. Do not write any personal information on the outside of your envelopes.
14. When out of town, has the post office hold your mail rather than letting it pile up on your doorstep or mailbox. That is a target for both identity thieves and regular burglars.
15. When travelling, use travellers cheques rather than personal cheques or a credit card that doesn’t charge international transaction fees.
16. Take advantage of direct deposit rather than a mailed paycheck.
17. If you’re not sure, say “no” – that alone will save you so much time and headache.
18. When a loved one passes away, be sure to close their accounts in a timely manner. I know that when you are grieving the lose of a loved one that the last thing you want to think about it taking care of closing their financial accounts but it is very important as identity thieves often target recently deceased people by monitoring obituaries and other sources of public data. Then the identify thieves take advantage of the time between their death and when loved ones close the recently departed account. When an ID thief take over a dead person’s identity, the crime can go on for quite some time until the deceased’s loved ones or authories realize their identity has been stolen and begin to take action to regain control over that stolen identity.
In today’s digital world it’s important to remain vigilant to try your best to avoid having your identity stolen. Now, I honestly hope that you never have to go through the headache of having your identity stolen and the damage to your credit score that typically follows.
If you have been a victim of fraud, make sure you report the incident to the property authorities and then star the process to repair your credit.
Photo Credit: 1