Identity theft is a real and serious problem. If you’re lucky, it won’t cause you anything more than a few phone calls to fix the problems. But more likely, it would ruin your credit score and finances, and cause you time and money. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there were over 670,000 complaints in 2006, of which almost 250,000 were regarding identity theft.
How to protect yourself against identity theft
You can just enroll in a credit monitoring service or an identity protection service to shield yourself against identity theft — but they cost money. Fortunately, there are several basic things that you could do to reduce your chance of becoming an ID theft victim.
- Don’t carry more than you need to in your wallet or purse. For example, don’t carry around your Social Security card or your social security number in your wallet. Also, don’t carry more than 1-2 credit cards at a time.
- Avoid questionable stores and online merchants.
- Don’t give away your Social Security Number and birth date unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Regularly review your credit report. You can get one credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Review your credit card statements and bank statements carefully each month.
- Cross-shred any document that contains sensitive information. These documents include credit card solicitations, loan applications, tax forms, bills and invoices — anything that contains personal information.
- Keep a list of all your account numbers and contact information in a safe place.
- Make sure your mailbox could be locked and only accessible by you.
- When online, use strong usernames and passwords. Also, avoid using the same usernames and passwords for all your online accounts.
- Do not click on links included in email; especially when the URL is different from the site you expected. It’s better to visit the site by typing in the URL manually.
Of course, there are more things you can do, but these should save you from 90% of the problems. If you have more tips not listed here, please share them in the comment section below.
Pinyo is the owner and primary author of Moolanomy Personal Finance blog. Moolanomy focuses on practical money management concepts, personal finance tips, and wealth building. If you like this article, please visit his blog and follow him on twitter @moolanomy. Lastly, you can leave financial question on Moolanomy Answers where Pinyo and other community members participate to provide you with answers.