Six Ways to Thwart Identity Thieves

You know how to protect your possessions and your family—but how do you protect your own identity? It’s a valid and critical question since identity theft affected 16.7 million people in 2017. And, the consequences can be devastating. It can harm your credit, your standing with the IRS, your ability to receive loans, and more.

So, we’ve compiled a few suggestions for keeping your personal information out of sinister hands.

 

1. Guard your Social Security number.

Don’t keep your Social Security card with you. Instead, lock it up in a safe place at home. Also, be very cautious about giving out this information or any other sensitive details like your birthdate or bank account number. Don’t just reveal them to anyone who asks.

 

2. Shred important papers.

Some identity thieves will dive into your dumpster for account statements, pre-approved credit offers, receipts, expired credit cards, and other items or documents with valuable information. Make sure you shred these before throwing them away. You should also collect your mail quickly and regularly so no one can grab it out of your box.

 

3. Keep sensitive information off social media.

People can collect details from your social media profile, such as your home address, birth date, children’s names, etc., and use them for scams and account theft. So, don’t overshare. If you want to know more about limiting your online exposure, check out this great resource from the California Department of Justice.

 

4. Review your statements.

Open your bank account and credit card statements as soon as you receive them and check for any suspicious activity. Compare it to your receipts, and notify your bank immediately if you see discrepancies.

 

5. Protect your computer and smartphone.

Install firewalls and virus-detection software.

 

6. Complicate your passwords.

Don’t use your spouse’s birthday or your daughter’s middle name for passwords. Make them significantly more difficult for thieves to guess. If you need tips, the Federal Trade Commission has excellent advice.