Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information for their own gain. This information can include name, birthday, social security number, or bank account numbers. It is the fastest growing crime in America and learning to protect yourself from identity theft should be a priority.
At home. Shred documents and papers that may contain personal information before you throw them away. Criminals have been known to go through trash to obtain information for identity theft. When protecting from identity theft, remember that bills, pay stubs, credit card offers, and other documents all include personal information.
Credit and debit cards. Before you swipe a credit or debit card, examine the reader and make sure it does not appear to have been tampered with. Criminals sometimes attach devices called skimmers that store your card information so they can use it to make purchases or create a counterfeit card. Watching carefully when you have to hand your card to a cashier, and considering using cash in restaurants will also help with protecting from identity theft.
Online. When shopping online, only use reputable web sites. Criminals sometimes create fraudulent sites just to trick you into entering payment information. If you are unsure about a site, do some research before you enter your payment information.
Protecting from identity theft includes never shopping or logging into personal accounts when using public wi-fi. You never know who else is on that connection and they may be snooping on information that you send and receive.
Be skeptical of any emails asking for information regarding an account or order. Don’t reply or click any links included in the message. If you suspect that it may be legitimate, contact the company directly.
Passwords. So much of your personal information is stored electronically. Strong passwords are needed to keep all that information safe. Your passwords should be long, complex, unpredictable, and unique. Never use the same password twice, and don’t use the most common ones, such as a favorite sports team or pet’s name.
In your wallet. Never carry your social security card with you, and only carry as many credit cards as you need.