- Don’t leave printed personal and financial information lying around at home
More often than not, identity thieves are friends or relatives of the victim who get their personal information from stuff scattered around their home.
Keep checkbooks, social security information, billing information, and anything else a thief could use to steal your identity out of sight and secure.
- Don’t just throw your printed material
Shred bank statements, credit statements, credit card offers and any printed material that contains some of your financial data by hand before throwing them away. Even better, get a crosscut shredder.
- Don’t mail checks from your home mailbox
Instead, drop them off at a U.S. Mailbox or the U.S. Post Office. Also, have new checks delivered to your bank, not your home.
- Don’t leave your home mailbox full when you’re away
If you’re traveling abroad, have your mail held at your local post office, or ask someone you know well and trust to collect and hold your mail while you’re away.
- Get and review your bank statements online
View your personal finance statements online at least twice a month. By doing this, you will spot a fraud much sooner if it happens. Time is very important when it comes to preventing identity theft, because the earliest you catch identity theft – the less damage is done and the less time and money spent on resolving it.
- Check and review your credit report at least once a year
Your credit report is the best place to look for signs of identity theft, because it contains information from numerous lenders, creditors, credit card companies, collection companies and other sources.
The FACT Act entitles everyone to receive a free credit report from each of the 3 major credit bureaus every 12 months. Take advantage of this privilege, order your free annual credit reports each year and review them thoroughly.
When you look at your reports, make sure you recognize ALL the account information listed. If you see anything you can’t account for, get to the bottom of it as soon as you can.
- Secure your home computer
Make sure your Wi-Fi is password protected. Install a firewall and Anti-Virus software. If you have a home network, control what you are sharing on the network.
When you dispose a PC, either remove the Hard-Drive entirely, or remove your data with a “wipe” utility. A regular file deletion actually leaves some of the files intact on your hard drive.
- Be smart about passwords
Avoid using the same password for many sites. Do not use your SSN (or part of it), Driver’s license, Date-Of-Birth or consecutive guessable numbers for passwords.
If you have trouble remembering hard-to-guess passwords, write them down on a piece of paper and keep them somewhere secure – hide them in a locked drawer, for example.
True, it’s a bit of a hassle, but it’s nothing compared to having your identity stolen.
- Use Credit monitoring Services
Credit monitoring services warn you every time someone applies for credit in your name, and are therefore one of the best ways to prevent identity theft. If someone has applied for credit in your name, you will be notified immediately and can respond before any damage is done.
Many companied offer paid credit monitoring services. Credit Karma offers free credit monitoring service that’s based on your TransUnion’s credit report. It’s not full proof, but much better that not having a monitoring service at all.
LifeLock offers a complete Identity Theft Protection Program, which includes much more than just credit report monitoring. The program comes with LifeLock’s famous $1 Million Total Service Guarantee, in case they fail to prevent your identity from being stolen.
- Consider freezing your credit report
You can stop lenders and creditors from accessing your credit information, thus effectively stopping them from opening new accounts in your name.
Putting a credit report freeze (also known as security lock) is one of the best ways to prevent identity theft, if not the best. See credit-freeze for more details.
- Avoid giving your SSN whenever possible
Your Social Security Number is a prime target to identity thieves, because it’s the key to your bank accounts, credit reports, federal benefits and much more.
Anyone that has your SSN along with other personal information poses a risk for you, even if it’s your doctor’s office, accounting firm, school, loan officer and many more.
If someone asks for your SSN, suggest giving him your driver’s license number instead. Also, do not add your SSN to your checkbook.
- Never give your personal information to phone solicitations
If someone you don’t know calls you on the telephone and offers you the chance to receive a “major” credit card, a prize or other valuable item, but asks you for personal information such as your Social Security number, credit card number or expiration date – refuse to give any information. Instead, ask them to send you a written application form. If they refuse – hang up!
See signs-of-identity-theft for a list of things you need to watch in order to spot an identity thieve.