Identity theft has become a huge problem today. Your personal and financial information can be stolen and used by another person, ruining your credit for years. In the worst situations, such actions can even force you into filing bankruptcy or legal problems, and even in the best of cases, it can take years to clean up the mess after your identity has been stolen. The best option is to learn how to protect yourself from this problem. How do you do that, though?
Mail and Papers Can Be a Threat
One of the most significant risks for identity theft comes from mail and papers that you toss into the trash. You’ll find that your personal information can be gleaned very easily from junk mail, unsolicited credit card offers and other papers that just get dumped in the garbage and forgotten. Take the time to shred any papers that you throw away, whether it’s a credit card offer or a copy of a store receipt. You should also make sure that you pick up your mail from your mailbox as promptly as possible, to reduce the chance that someone will take it and find your personal information.
Your Social Security Number
When it comes to your identity, there are few things as important as your Social Security number. This number identifies you to all government institutions, from the IRS to your state’s DMV and everything in between. In many ways, your Social Security number is your identity. Protecting your Social Security number can be hard to do, as well. If your SSN is used on your driver’s license, ask if you can change it (most states allow this). If your SSN is found on your insurance cards or in any correspondence, contact the company in question and ask for an alternate option for identification, such as a case number, customer number or something similar.
Beware on the Internet
While the Internet has become safer than it once was, it’s still possible for your identity to be stolen here. From your Social Security number to your credit card information, any data you use online can be captured and used by identity thieves. Make sure you have an updated antivirus program and avoid using any websites that seem “iffy.” You also need to make sure that your home computer network (wireless) is password protected to keep others from accessing it.
If you are very concerned about identity theft or think that your information has been stolen, consider freezing your credit report. This denies access to your credit report unless you authorize it, which will ensure that no unauthorized creditors are able to gain access to your report and no new credit can be issued in your name without first being approved by you. However, freezes can be inconvenient and they’re not available in all states.