Identity Theft Protection and Prevention Tips
Protect Your Identity
Unfortunately many of us have been victims of identity theft and here are a few strategies that will help keep your personal information from falling into the wrong hands:
Pay cash at the pump - You may be surprised to learn that thieves can get your credit card information from an ATM or gas pump card readers. I had this happen to me. Thieves can use a special magnetic strip inserted into the card reader and retrieve it later. It will include your card number, pin #, etc. This allows them to have duplicate cards with your information made.
Paperless Statements - Signing up for paperless billing statements (if you can remember to pay your bills on time) will prevent thieves form stealing your mail to get personal information.
Don’t put your outgoing mail in your mailbox - It is easy for people to steal outgoing mail. Use mail boxes at the post office. I once had my mail stolen out of a locked apartment mailbox which was broken into.
Write checks with a uni-ball pen - Many inks can be washed out of checks. This allows scammers to use your checks at places like Wal-mart who process checks electronically, which leaves almost no paper trail (yes that happened to me, too).
Check your credit report - You are entitled to free credit reports. Check your state’s requirements for free credit reports and get yours directly through the credit bureaus. If you use sites like freecreditreport.com, you have to sign up for a product trial. Also, your information is being funneled through a 3rd party.
Pay bills with bill-pay - Online banking allows you to keep all your information in one secure place. Don’t enter your credit card or checking account information on every utility website to pay bills. Do it all with your bank’s online bill-pay site to minimize risk of your information getting into the wrong hands.
Don’t use your debit card in restaurants - Your card disappears for a few minutes and individuals can write down your card number while it is out of your sight. If you card is ripped off, the money comes right our of your bank account. The bank may refund you the money but it can be a huge mess. You will have to change bank account numbers in some cases. You will also have to change all of your billing information and direct deposit. This leaves you vulnerable to missing payments on bills and incurring late fees for auto-payments you have scheduled.
Identity Theft Resources
Shred your documents - As you dispose of personal documents, remember to shred! It can be a cheap way to protect your identity in the long-run.