If you read or listen to the news, you know that identity theft is a scary thing. Even though technology is great, it has also opened up new opportunities for people to steal your identity and completely ruin your life.
That may sound dramatic, but it can be true. When someone steals your identity, they probably did it by gaining access to credit cards, phone numbers, your address, email address, social security card- maybe even a copy of your birth certificate.
What can someone do with all of this information?
For starters, they can open up new credit cards, raise the limit to as high as the company will allow, and then use it to purchase anything they’ve ever wanted. Then they can open up a new card and repeat the process.
And remember that since these cards are in your name, YOU are responsible for paying for it.
So what can you do to prevent identity theft? Here are a few basic ways to get started, but they can go a long way towards keeping yourself and your family safe.
Shred Sensitive Paper Documents
Even though identity thieves have come up with more sophisticated ways to steal your information, digging in the garbage is still an effective method. Obviously it’s not glamorous for them, but they only need one lucky break to steal your identity.
Buy yourself a paper shredder. Before you toss a piece of paper with sensitive information on it, shred it first. Sensitive information includes your social security number, driver’s license number, bank account and routing numbers, credit card numbers, phone numbers, etc.
Make a Strong Password for Your Email
If you’re like most people living in the U.S. in 2014, you have a LOT of information coming into your email address. You probably use it to look at bank statements, investments, get in touch with friends and family, link to Facebook, etc.
That’s why you’ve GOT to have a strong password on your email address. Aim to make it at least 15 characters. Variety is better, but even something like TheBestPasswordEver is better than using something like your dog’s name for the password.
That is, unless your cat has a long name like Maximus the Golden Lion Cat.
Stop using easy-to-guess passwords. That kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
Pay with Cash or Credit Card
What happens when you pay with a check? Well despite the fact that you’re behind the times- you’re giving someone your name, address, phone number, and bank information. That’s a LOT of info that they can now use to steal your identity.
Think it’s safe to use a debit card? It’s not bad, but the problem with debit cards is that if someone steals that number and they charge against it, you might have a cash problem on your hands very quickly. They’re taking money directly from your bank account- not good.
Instead, either pay with cash or a credit card. Credit cards are better than debit cards because when you (or they) realize it was a fraudulent charge, the card can just get cancelled and you don’t have to pay the bill.
These are just a few steps you can take towards protecting your identity. They’re simple, but effective. Stay safe!