Quick Ways To Prevent Identity Theft
This article lists quick ways to prevent identity theft which have been compiled based on information provided on this site. Please pay attention to the ones that apply to your situation and share this information with family members and friends to also educate them on ways to prevent identity theft and avoid becoming victims of identity fraud.
1. Always pay cash whenever you can, limiting the use of credit cards or checks. Sharing less personal information such as information embedded on and inside your card or checks can prevent identity theft and identity fraud since you don’t know what kind of person you’re sharing the information with. You may be dealing with a reputable company but are the people working for these companies as reputable? We wouldn’t know in our short interaction. Plus, the credit card or check information may be lost and misused long after the transaction is completed.
2. Don’t own more than one credit card, or at most two if you have to have a second source of emergency funds. Some people can own more credit cards if they know how to detect and resolve identity theft timely. But most people either don’t know how or don’t have the time to monitor for identity theft detection or resolve identity fraud. Therefore, owning too many credit cards increases the identity theft risk and by owning fewer credit cards, we can limit our identity theft risk.
3. Share the right personal information with the right people and only when necessary. Always question whether the person asking for your personal information is entitled to such information, or, the information the person is asking for is necessary for your transaction, and, timing of the request is appropriate for the transaction. I remember shopping for a car years ago and sometimes when I called or visited a dealership, they would ask me to fill out their credit application first, which asked a lot of detail personal questions. Naturally, I refused and only accepted to fill out the application after I selected my car.
4. Don’t refinance your mortgage too many times. Lately, people have been refinancing their mortgages multiple times in a year. This is not good. Decide the mortgage program you’re comfortable with and refinance when the time is right. Did you know that some people working for large banks, have been selling their rejected mortgage applications to the sub prime mortgage lenders to offer rejected applicants mortgages with a higher rate? Sub prime lenders have been targeting victims all along, which is now leading to higher foreclosure rates.
5. Don’t share your personal information with every car dealer you meet. Decide what car you want first and then apply for credit if you don’t have cash to pay for the car. Don’t select creditor first and then the car. And remember, you can finance your new car using existing funds like a credit card or home equity account without applying for a new credit line.
6. Limit what you carry with you in your wallet or purse. If you carry more than what you need in your daily life and you lose that wallet or purse, you have to notify more places and assume more identity theft and fraud risks.
7. Know what you carry with you in your wallet. This will help you notify the banks and other related parties immediately of your lost items to either cancel or replace them.
8. Don’t take unnecessary documents with you when you travel. We may lose certain items or even our luggage during our trips; therefore, we should limit carrying our valuable items during our trips especially if they are not needed. Some examples are birth certificates of people not traveling with us like the kids.
9. Keep all your important belongings with you during all trips. This tip applies to items you leave behind in your hotel room or place of business abroad. It’s better if you retain control of your valuables at all time.
10. Speak only the necessary words, to the necessary people, with the necessary tone loud enough just for the listener to hear. Have you experienced a doctor’s assistant asking you about your personal information like your name, date of birth, or even social security number in a small practice waiting room packed with full of people? Make sure, you either write the information down for them or speak loud enough only for the assistant to hear.
11. Take care of your pass codes and PINs by making them hard to guess and hard to crack. Always make sure your pass code remains private when stored or used in public places like the bank machines. Pass codes confirm to the machines and sometimes the humans the validity of your identity; basically confirming you are who you say you are. If your pass code is compromised or shared, others can claim to be you. Therefore, make sure the important pass codes always remain private, are short enough for you to remember and long enough to make it difficult to crack or avoid writing it down.
12. Never share your pass codes. You transfer your identity when your share your pass codes. In case of wrongdoing, you will be held responsible at work and in your personal life.
13. Secure your car and don’t place valuables in your car when you’re not in it. Cars often get stolen or broken into for the valuables inside the cars. Limit your losses by not placing valuables in your car.
14. Don’t unnecessarily fill out too many applications for jobs, dating services, student loans and other services or promotions. You increase your identity theft risks each time you share your information with others.
15. Physically secure your home and only allow the validated people into your house. Intruders often distract and lie their way into a house especially to the elderly in order to steal valuables. Make sure you check the identity of the people you let into your house including babysitters, window washers and others. And, monitor their activities once inside the house until their departure.
16. Pass code protect your computers at home and at work. You may have saved files in your computers, which may contain personal information. Protect these files as you protect your wallet.
17. Cancel, notify and/or replace immediately any lost or stolen identity component such as a phone, passport or credit card, even if recovered. Don’t look for lost items too long thus allowing any potential fraud to go undetected for a while. Cancel and replace them right away.
18. Don’t prepare taxes on line. When you prepare taxes online by going to a tax web site and completing the tax form on the web, the data you enter is stored on the tax company’s database which you have no control over in terms of who can access the tax data, how long they will keep your data, etc.
19. Check the background of people with whom you do business. This applies to business partners, life partners, people you employ in your house or business.
20. Freeze accounts for the period you do not plan to use. One example is the home equity line of credit or HELOC. It’s good to have it for emergency but if you don’t use the account often like most people, you can ask the bank to freeze or lock the account until the time you decide to use the funds. These types of accounts are particularly susceptible to identity fraud without being detected on time as we don’t use or even monitor the activities of this type of accounts.
21. Place alerts or consider placing credit freeze on your credit reports. Fraud alerts and credit freeze require your authorization and approval to allow a potential creditor to access your credit report for any reason in most cases.
22. Pick up your mails as soon as they are delivered. Leaving the mails in a mailbox for a lengthy period of time is not a good identity theft prevention practice, especially, when such mails may contain confidential information and the mailbox may not be locked.
23. Place trash outside as close to its pickup time as possible. This will not allow the dumpster divers enough time to go through your trash searching for valuable information between the time you leave your trash unattended to the time it is picked up by trash collectors.
24. Remove labels and inserts from magazines before sharing them with others. Magazine labels and pre-printed magazine inserts often contain valuable personal information. Make sure you remove them before sharing the magazines with friends and acquaintances.
25. Keep all appropriate parties informed of any personal changes. One example is reporting death of a loved one. There are many cases of misuse of a dead person’s identity. A dead person’s identity can be used to apply for a passport, employment, driver’s license, credit card, and other loans.
Visit Identity Management Institute for training and certification.