Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lower Your Risk For Identity Theft

Most identity thieves are targeting your social security number, your bank account, credit card information and all the corresponding PINs and passwords. It's hard to protect yourself from a determined thief, but there are lots of things you can do to make it less likely you'll fall victim to this crime.

Here are some of the things you need to keep an eye on in order to minimize your risk.

1. Computer: It's not difficult for a professional to hack into your computer system from a distance. It's important that you have some essential protective software such as antivirus and anti-spyware programs. A firewall is also critical. As well, identity theft software is becoming increasingly popular among people who are nervous about their privacy. A basic strategy is to use a strong password to protect your data. It should be at least eight to ten characters in length. It should include both letters and numbers. And it shouldn't be something easy to crack like your birthday or anniversary.

2. Wallet: Be protective of your wallet always. For many people, their wallet or handbag contains all the information an identity thief needs to facilitate his crime. This includes your credit cards, checkbook, and bank card, not to mention any PINs you've written down.

3. Mailbox: Most of don't even think about locking our mailboxes. But this is a prime target for someone who's after your personal information. Think about all the financial documents that are sent to your home via the mail. Your credit card and bank statements alone are all a thief needs.

4. Garbage: If it's garbage to you, you're usually pretty confident no one else wants it. The truth is that criminals will search through people's trash bags to find personal information that they can use to steal your identity. This even includes unsolicited credit card applications, so make sure you shred everything before it goes out to the trash.

5. Lockers: Any place you store your handbag or wallet needs to be locked securely. This includes your locker at the gym or your workplace. Use your own lock if you can so it's harder for a thief to get hold of a duplicate key.

6. Information: Be careful who you give out information to. It's easy to disguise a request for your personal information as coming from a legitimate organization, but sometimes it's really someone only posing as your bank or credit card customer service representative. This can happen either over the phone or on the internet. It's all too easy to give out confidential information in these circumstances.

These days, nobody is safe from identity theft. It is one of the fastest growing crimes internationally. And it can happen to you. Learn more about identity theft protection.

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