Did you know that apart from terrorism, Identity Theft is America’s biggest crime and an American’s biggest nightmare? Once you lose your identity, it is almost impossible to recover it. You could face problems for years to come and would need time, money and tons of patience. Identity thieves can get access to not only your money; they can even run you into huge debts. Many people whose identity has been stolen are not even aware of it until much later. This is because; ID thieves change the address on the statements, so one does not receive them to realize there is a problem. Thankfully there are a few easy ways to protect one’s identity. Let’s check them out:
1. Be wary of handing out personal details when applying to jobs overseas
Many enticing job opportunities offer you huge payouts and sign in bonuses for which they ask you for your bank account details, copy of your passports, pay slips, and other superannuation details. Never ever give these away. If any organization is asking you for these details online, do a bit of research before doing so. Even if your bank calls to confirm your details, do not do so over the phone. Initiate the contact, meet the manager in the bank, but never ever give details over phone or online.
2. Never carry important documents on your person or your car
When leaving your home, never carry your passport or other documents with you. Carry only your credit/debit cards. Also do not carry your social security card in your wallet and avoid keeping important personal documents in the car.
3. Destroy sensitive information before trashing it
Invest in a paper shredder and trash every piece of paper that you wish to discard especially ones with your identity credentials, bills, credit card statements etc. Shred all expired-credit cards as well as pre-screened card or loan offers you get in the mail.
4. Secure copies of important documents
These include birth certificates, bank passbooks, license, passports, marriage certificate, university degree certificates etc. Keep these under lock and key. These documents can help you verify your identity should the originals go missing. Consider placing important documents in fireproof/waterproof safes or security boxes. Keep all information stored electronically in encrypted format or protect it using a strong password.
5. Keep your mailbox locked
Also arrange to have your mail diverted to your new address when you move. Be alert about missing mail.
6. Use strong passwords and secure your computer
This is one of the easiest ways identity thieves can access your personal details. Be wary of opening unknown links which could install malware on your machines. Always use strong passwords and install a firewall so kids cannot access sites they should not. Never use public computers when accessing sensitive details. Also secure your mobile against viruses and malware. Strong passwords are the ones that contain special characters, numbers along with a mix of lower and uppercase alphabets. Use different passwords for different sites where you enter sensitive details. Update your anti-virus software from time to time.
7. Limit what you post online
Never post details like you will be away on a trip on social media. It is a surefire invitation to identity thieves to enter your home. Secure your home with a burglar alarm.
8. Call your bank/vendors about cards or bills you did not ask for
Receive anything odd in the mail? Check with your bank or vendors about services/goods that seem suspicious. Be alert about unusual bank transactions.
9. Get a free copy of your credit report from time to time
It is very important to keep an eye on your credit score. Review all records to catch unauthorized accounts.
10. When traveling
Make and keep several copies of passport, itinerary, traveler’s checks etc. Keep one copy with a trusted friend/family back home.
We hope these 10 easy ways help you protect your identity.