Drastically Reduce Your Risk of Identity Theft

by Dan Riffle - Date: 2007-04-20 - Word Count: 701 Share This!

This whole identity theft thing gives you the creeps, right? You're not only infuriated by, but terrified of the thought of somebody sifting through your trash, brazenly stealing your mail, or hijacking your wallet not for your money so much as your social security number. You may even feel helpless.

While identity theft is a serious issue, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of being an identity theft victim. The following is a list of just a few things you can do to protect your identity:

• Either purchase a locking mailbox or have a mail slot installed. For even more security, considered getting a post office box. An unlocked mailbox provides access to extremely valuable information. Consider it this way, which is worth more: your $2,000 big screen TV or the account number and corresponding information of your Visa card with a $10,000 credit limit? You don't leave your front door unlocked because you don't want somebody to steal your TV, right? So, why is your mailbox unlocked?

• Shred all financial documents (bank statements, credit card statements, loan statements, receipts, etc.) and anything with your name or other identifying information not once, but twice! Run the document through your shredder and hand tear the shredded material in different directions. Now divide up the shredded remains into multiple trash bags. Ultra paranoid? Burn everything. Seriously.

• Treat your social security number as though it were your child. Protect it at most costs (all costs may be just a little excessive…better to be alive and an ID theft victim than a dead man with a safe identity). Don't freely give it out. Ask for alternatives, if possible. I'd give out my social security number to obtain a loan. I wouldn't give it out to buy an ice cream cone. A ridiculous example, but it illustrates the point. Don't write your social security number on checks. Don't let the bank teller do it either. While she's just trying to cover her butt, she's exposing yours.

• Don't give any information to telemarketers. Period. There are other ways to get a good price on magazine subscriptions or to make donations to charity. The same thing goes for spam emails, but you don't open those, right?

• Speaking of emails, don't click on emails from people you don't know. Don't click on emails from people you know when the subject of the email doesn't make sense or says something the sender would never say. It probably contains a virus, possibly one designed to poke through your computer files and steal passwords and account numbers. You have a spam filter. Use it.

• Yes, you do need that $60 annual anti-virus/internet security subscription, especially if you are very internet-active or have children. Hackers and virus designers work day and night, minute by minute, to swindle you out of your money, resources and identity information. This is one area where you don't want to go cheap. $60 per year is much less than the cost of a new computer or repairing your credit. By the way, keep these programs up to date. Most can be set to automatically update when you are least likely to be using your computer, such as late at night.

• Be smart about your passwords. It can be a hassle, but passwords that involve your name, your spouse's name, your birthday, or your favorite sports teams are virtually worthless. A random combination of letters and numbers is best. Do you really want to throw off the identity thieves? Smash your hand into your keyboard. The result is your new password. Keep a file on your computer in a secure location with the password in it and copy and paste the password when you need it. Just be sure to copy something else when you're done to clear the password from your clipboard. Or you can handwrite your hand-smashed result in a notebook and copy it when you need it. Inconvenience is the ultimate price of security.

Don't let the identity thieves get you down. The most important thing you can do is be aware of what information you are giving out and who you are giving it to. All it takes is a little conscious effort to limit your risk of identity theft.

Related Tags: identity theft, identity theft prevention, identity fruad

Dan Riffle is an MBA with over ten years of lending experience. He writes extensively about identity theft at Identitytheftinsider.com, a free resource of valuable identity theft prevention information.

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