10 Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft

We see the TV commercials on the air with the two older women talking about being the victims of identity theft and how there stolen credit cards bought a new motorcycle and we get a chuckle. Unfortunately though, the growing identity theft epidemic is no laughing matter.

Every month we hear news stories about thieves stealing countless numbers of personal identification documents. In 2003 nearly 10 million Americans had their identity stolen. It can literally take thousands of hours, and a good amount of money to try and restore your identity after becoming a victim. What can we do? How can we protect ourselves? Here are 10 tips that can reduce the risk having your identity stolen.

Leave your Social Security card at home, not in your wallet or purse. If it’s lost or stolen, your personal identification may also become stolen.

Don’t have a wallet or purse full of different credit cards. Yes, it may impress your friends, but no one will be impressed if they get stolen and maxed out by criminals. Best advice; carry only one or two credit cards at any one time and leave the others at home.

Never perform any type of online financial transactions from a public Internet terminal or a non-secure connection. Even though it may seem safe, there is an increased risk that it will not be. Don’t take unnecessary chances.

Keep an updated list of all your credit cards and financial documents in a safe place. Make sure to include the 800 numbers to the various financial institutions in the event you need to get in touch with them. Another good idea is to regularly request a copy of your credit report, once a year at a minimum.

Never answer emails that ask you to send your personal information. Banks and financial institutions don’t do this in an email, scammers do. If you receive any type of email from a bank or other business and you have questions, call them on the phone and ask them about it. Don’t simply send back information.

Be cautious when carrying around your checkbook. Leave the register at home, and if possible, only keep 2 or 3 blank checks with you instead of the whole checkbook.

Avoid busy ATM machines. If you absolutely need to use one, make certain that no one is looking on at what information you’re putting in.

Whenever you make a purchase over the Internet, make certain the merchant offers 128-bit SSL technology to process the transaction. This is the most secure way to complete transactions.

Purchase a paper shredder if you don’t already have one. This will allow you to destroy mail and other documents that have your personal information on them. This eliminates dumpster divers from stealing that information. It may seem silly, but dumpster diving is one of the easiest and best ways for criminals to obtain information.

Never give out personal information over the phone unless you’re absolutely certain you know who you are talking to. If you’re unsure, and they called you first, hang up and call them back to be sure they are legitimate.

These 10 tips will help lower the risk of becoming the next victim of identity theft. Yes, it may seem a little inconvenient at times, but the alternative is potential disaster. Believe me; you do not want to go through the process of trying to restore your identity and your life back. You can talk with anyone who has gone through the process and they will all tell you the same thing. By taking some of these small steps in protecting yourself, you won’t be an easy target for the next criminal.

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