Identity theft continues to be a growing problem in a world that has become almost exclusively digital. New age thieves can end up costing you hours and hours of time spent clearing your name, not to mention a potential lifetime of credit issues. However, there are a few things you can do to help prevent becoming a victim.
First, buy a shredder. Be sure to destroy any old receipts, account statements, and expired credit cards. Also, make sure you destroy any old credit card offers that come in the mail because they can be used to easily open credit cards in your name.
However, before you destroy those receipts, make sure you use them to compare with your bank and credit card account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions. You may also occasionally discover incorrect amounts on charges by merchants.
Don’t keep PIN numbers or anything with your social security number in your wallet. If someone gets a hold of these, they have an open door to your financial world. It is a good idea to also keep copies of the front and back of any credit cards that you have in your purse or wallet. If your cards are ever lost or stolen, you can use these copies to promptly notify banks and cancel the card numbers. Obviously, don’t leave these copies lying around your home or office. Instead, store them and any other documents with personal information in a safe place, like a small lockbox that you can get from any office supply store.
Try to empty your mailbox promptly. The longer mail sits in the box, the more likely it is that someone driving by can grab a wealth of personal financial information. When you are away from your home, use the post office’s mail stop and delayed delivery option. This can be done online at www.usps.com.
If you ever find yourself the victim of identity theft, be sure to promptly notify any financial institution where you have an account to prevent additional charges or withdrawals from you accounts. Also, notify law enforcement. Having a police report in your hands when you contact banks about illegal charges will help you prove your innocence.
Finally, notify the credit-reporting bureaus. Ask them to place a fraud alert on your account and not grant any new access to your credit information without first obtaining your permission.
These simple steps can make the lives of identity thieves a little more difficult and keep you from being an easy target.