Each year, thousands of people around the world fall victim to identity theft… the assumption of their identity by others in an attempt to empty their bank accounts, establish fake lines of credit in their name, or to take advantage of current lines of credit and max out any credit cards that they might currently have.
Luckily, there are some simple steps that you can take that will help you to avoid identity thieves and keep your personal and financial information private. The tips provided below are designed to help you to protect your identifying information, though in the end the implementation of them is up to you.
One easy way to keep your financial information out of the wrong hands is to purchase a lock box in which to keep your personal and financial records until they are out of date. Though the lock box doesn't have to be expensive, it's important to buy a sturdy one with a good lock on it in the event of a break-in or if someone should be in your house looking for financial information. Buying a fireproof lock box can also have the benefit of protecting your financial and personal information in the event if a fire or other natural disaster.
When it comes time to get rid of old records, unused credit cards applications, and other identifying information, a personal shredder is one of the best investments that you can make. It's generally best to purchase a cross-cut shredder, which cuts paper at opposite angles and makes it virtually impossible to reconstruct at a later date. These shredders can usually be bought for not a lot of money, and can more than make up the cost in the peace of mind that they can bring.
Before giving out any personal or financial information, you should make sure that the person that you're giving it to is legitimate. Avoid giving any identifying information to anyone over the phone unless you know for sure who you're talking to and that it's alright to do so, and don't submit personal information over the internet unless it's via an encrypted and automated system. You should also avoid replying to requests for passwords for websites that claim to come from administrators… almost all major websites have automated password generation features, so administrators would not have any need for your password.
If you receive an e-mail that claims to be from a company that you do business with but is asking for financial or personal information, don't believe it. Don't reply to it, and don't click any links contained within… instead, manually type in the main URL of the website, log in, and report the e-mail to the company to verify whether it's legitimate or not.
In order to stay on top of identity theft, you should periodically check your credit report and go over all account statements and account transactions via online bank account access. Verify that all charges and debits are legitimate, and report any that appear without your authorization. Look for accounts or listings on your credit report that you didn't open, and contact the issuer should you find any. By taking a little time to stay on top of your bank accounts and your credit report, you can usually discover attempts at identity theft while something can still be done to stop it… and might just catch the person in the act.