Thursday, December 3, 2009

12 Sure Ways of Preventing Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the worst crimes happening all over the world. Thieves take over someone else's identity for some time in order to steal their money or use their credit cards.

Following a few simple tips for identity theft prevention is the best way to avoid becoming a victim of this crime. If we think of the security measures being taken to protect our Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and other vital information, it is quite alarming that criminals are still able to obtain this information and use it to steal from us!

Here are 12 solid ways of preventing identity theft:

1. Be smart online: Use encrypted or secure servers whenever you go online. Do not transact business with unknown websites. Do not open files sent to you by strangers. Make sure your virus database is regularly updated. Use firewall programs to block spyware and malicious advertisements from pop-ups on untrusted websites.
2. Choose your passwords wisely: Thieves can easily determine your passwords, especially for your online accounts. Avoid using birthdays, social security numbers or phone numbers in your password. Make sure your password is difficult to determine, use a combination of letters (upper and lower case) and numbers that only you will be able to make sense and remember.
3. Keep your records and personal papers in a safe place: Thieves can get into your home, and if they find your personal papers like loan applications, birth certificate etc., they can use these information to steal anything from you. Make sure these documents are in a safety deposit box where only you know its location. Or, place these in a safety deposit box in a bank.
4. Never give financial details over the phone: The usual strategy is for an identity thief to pose as a charitable foundation, or a telemarketer for some online store or TV shop, and then they ask for your credit card information. If you give them your details, then you can kiss your credit line and history goodbye. This is the most common way criminals steal your identity.
5. Learn to use credit cards properly: Do not sign the back of your credit card. If possible, always have a photo laminated into your credit card so that a thief cannot use it. Also, do not use your credit card in establishments like restaurants, where your card will be out of your sight. Do not give out any details regarding your credit card.
6. Photocopy both sides of your wallet's contents: Make sure that you have a photocopy of all contents of your wallet. If your wallet is stolen, you can easily report it to the proper authorities. This idea is the most overlooked and ignored but, it can save you a great deal of time and aggravation. Make sure you report the theft to the proper companies, (e.g. Social Security, credit card company etc.) as soon as possible to prevent the thieves from using your personals.
7. Store your PINs in a safe place: It is difficult to memorize the PINs of your ATM cards, credit cards, and debit cards. It will save you a lot of trouble if you store your PINs in a safe place that is away from your plastic cards. If a thief steals your plastic card, he will not be able to use it after a few unsuccessful attempts at your PIN, as the system will lock your card. It may be an inconvenience for you as well, but that will prevent your money from being stolen.
8. Put a lock on your home mailbox: If the mailbox you keep is readily accessible by anyone, better buy a lock. One root cause of identity theft is that strangers steal your mail, gather as much information as they can on you, then pose as you when doing transactions to get valuable things you own.
9. Rent a mail box from the post office: If you do not have a mailbox at home, or you are often away on trips, rent a PO Box from the local post office. Always have your mails addressed to your PO Box address to prevent others from having access to your mail. Deposit your outgoing mail to your PO Box. Also, request a vacation hold from the Post Office for your mail if you will be away for more than 2 days. This one precaution can help you a great deal in identity theft protection.
10. Opt for a private phone number: It pays to have your own private number. You will only get calls from people you know and choose to have your number. Make sure that you give your number only to trustworthy people. This will minimize telemarketers and other fraud artists from calling you and possibly stealing your identity.
11. Get credit card report annually: It is always a good move to have a monthly report regarding your credit card. You will never know what purchases may pop up on your bill. Call the following major credit bureaus to have your credit report (you are allowed one free report per year).
12. Have a good paper shredder: Make sure you have access to a powerful paper shredder, usually the crosscut type. Pre-filled charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards that you're discarding and mail credit offers should be immediately shredded, NOT TORN TO PIECES, when they will be discarded.

You can prevent identity theft easily if you keep the above things in mind.

At SafeList, our goal is to help and educate people live with safety and security. The concept behind is quite simple: Verified Identity. Learn more about our vision at Safe List.

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