Organize Your Information

After you’re done with creating a complete list of personal information and the location of your identity components, you need to properly organize and oversee your information. These are the fifth and sixth Identity KAOS principles.

In order to properly organize your information, you need to categorize the items in your inventory list based on their similarities and risk level. This is extremely important because the assigned risk level will determine the necessary and needed security measures which we will discuss in the next principles. Be very specific in your categorization, although you may consolidate a few categories when you organize your information.

For example, you may keep all home utility statements together or all credit card statements together. There are many benefits to categorizing your personal information items. First, you will find the information fairly quickly when needed. For example, we all know how daunting it can be to find and submit all required documents when applying for a mortgage. Second, we must categorize, because we must apply various levels of protection measures when dealing with our personal information. I personally keep my credit cards completely separate from my other documents for security reasons. This is a category I frequently visit to assess whether I need to make any changes. Some time ago, I came across a credit card that provided rewards for a child’s higher education which interested me very much. More importantly, the credit card was offered by a bank I was already doing businesses with, so there was no additional risk of sharing my information with another bank. So, I jumped on the opportunity and called the credit card company to switch one of my existing cards from the same bank to this new card without completing another application. So, go ahead and organize your information, and don’t forget to revisit the list once in a while and make adjustments as needed. Some of the categories may include:

a) Home utilities (water, power, gas, phone), b) Credit cards, c) Credit card statements, d) Bank statements (checking, savings, mortgage), e) Mortgage statements, f) Brokerage statements, g) Insurance policies (car, home, etc.), h) Social security card or SSA annual retirement statements, i) Passports, j) Birth and death certificates, k) Identity cards (ID, driver’s license, green card, other), l) School documents (school documents of all levels may include personal information), m) W2 statements or any other work related documents, and n) Tax return documents

You also need to oversee or monitor your identity components to make sure they are not being used for identity theft purposes:

- Check your physical identity components periodically to make sure they are not missing and remain where they’re supposed to be. Sometimes, our physical items such as credit cards can be stolen and the sooner we detect their absence, the sooner we can alert the banks and take actions to limit any potential fraud damages resulting from their theft.

- Monitor your monthly/periodic statements to verify their accuracy. Check your credit card transactions and make sure you have authorized them. If you do not receive a statement on time or notice incorrect items, follow up with the institution immediately and close your accounts if they have been targets of identity theft. Even if you think your statement balance should be zero because you did not have any transactions, it is still a very good idea to review the statements and verify no unauthorized charges are posted.

- Sign up with a credit monitoring service to receive alerts regarding any new accounts opened in your name or changes made to your credit reports. Most people know how to sign up for credit monitoring services but very few know how to follow up with the alerts they receive or overlook the importance of such activity. Check your alert notifications frequently and promptly follow up with each item and the credit monitoring company if you need help to clear all outstanding alerts.

After you learn how to organize your information, learn about step 4 of the identity KAOS principles, "secure your information".

Identity Theft Course