In the words of the ever-wise Dwight Schrute, “Identity theft is not a joke.” Indeed, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the U.S., affecting over 5 million people every year. Though this tragedy can affect anyone, identity thieves are much more likely to prey on the ill-informed. Therefore, arm yourself with knowledge, and you will be able to protect yourself and your family from the woes of identity theft. Here are five things you can do now to secure your personal information and identity.
- Keep Detailed Records
One of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft is to monitor your finances regularly and keep detailed records of all transactions and accounts. File all your credit card receipts, bank statements, medical statements, and bills in a secure location. These documents contain valuable personal information about you, including your account numbers, name, and address.
In the wrong hands, this information could be used against you in identity fraud. By keeping these documents together in an organized fashion, you can protect your information and recognize if anything is amiss in your accounts.
- Destroy the Evidence
Once you are done with your documents—paid bills, old bank statements, medical statements, etc.—destroy them. Invest in a shredder, and use it to get rid of any documents that contain your personal information.
Just because it is in the trash, that doesn’t mean it is safe from predators. Don’t leave your security to chance. If you keep all your records carefully organized and dispose of them properly, you will greatly reduce the chances of someone stealing your information.
- Beware of Shoulder-Surfers
Whenever you make transactions in public, be wary of others nearby. Thieves will sidle up behind you close enough to see your PIN at registers and ATMs. Cover the keypad with your other hand as you punch in the numbers, and angle yourself in a way that blocks the screen from others’ views.
Additionally, be smart about your ATM use. Avoid using any machines that are in poorly-lit areas, behind corners, or otherwise obstructed from public view. These situations provide prime opportunities for thieves to jump you or catch you by surprise. Whenever possible, use only ATMs that are located inside reputable buildings or at least in plain public view. This will keep both you and your personal information safe.
- Never Carry Your License and Social Security Card Together
This is pretty self-explanatory, but it should be mentioned: never keep both your driver’s license and social security card (or number) together. These are two of your most valuable forms of identification, and a thief could wreak havoc on your life with this information.
Leave your social security card in a safe place at home, and memorize the number. Don’t write it down anywhere either—if you lost the paper or someone went through your wallet, it would not be difficult to figure out what it was. Commit the numbers to memory, and only keep your license on hand.
- Don’t Leave Paid Bills in Mailbox
Always bring paid bills directly to the post office, rather than leaving them in the mailbox to be picked up by your mailman. Such sensitive information should not be left out where others could find them. If you always handle your bills and transactions personally, you can rest easy knowing they will reach their desired destination safely.
Identity theft is a serious concern. With the digital age, it is easier than ever for ill-meaning people to discover your information and abuse it to their privilege. Protect yourself, your family, and your assets by taking precautions and always being smart with your personal information. The more careful you are, the less likely you will suffer at the hands of an identity thief.
[box_light]Jake Magleby has written extensively about effective marketing, sales, and financing strategies to help small business owners succeed in the fast-paced and ever-changing business world. From ATM machines for sale to office supplies, Jake has your business covered.[/box_light]