Identity theft is a growing problem in our country. An estimated 9 million identities are stolen every year! When someone gains access to your private information, like a social security number, they can wreak havoc by opening new bank and credit card accounts, and wracking up charges on your current lines of credit. However there are a few simple things you can do to protect yourself-things that are free and easy to do!
Do not carry your social security card in your wallet! Surprisingly many people still do this and if your wallet is stolen your social security card can be used for a host of troublesome activities. Memorize your number and then keep the card locked in your home safe. Same goes for debit and credit card PIN numbers. Never keep these in your wallet because they give access to your cards.
Along those lines don’t carry your children’s social security cards with you. You will almost never need those numbers and there’s no reason to risk having those numbers exposed by carrying them around with you.
Avoid carrying multiple credit cards/debit cards with you. Knowing first hand the trauma of having my purse stolen I’ve learned that having less on you is better. Try to keep as much at home and only carry the cards you’ll be using at each outing. If your wallet is stolen you want as little in it as possible. Having to replace your drivers license is hassle enough without having to deal with several stolen credit cards. I don’t even carry my check book with me anymore-just one check tucked in my wallet for emergencies.
Never give out your personal information to strangers. Again, surprisingly, many people will give out their social security number to people they do not know (suspicious emails or web sites). That number is one of your most prized ‘possessions’ and it needs to be protected as much as possible. Do not give it to anyone you do not know thoroughly and if you’re giving it at a place you do trust (like your bank for a loan application etc) request that they block out the number or destroy it after your paper work has been processed.
Check your bank and credit card statements thoroughly every time you receive them. Be especially careful for small charges that are listed as a ‘monthly subscription’-usually these will be a recurring fee of $9.95 or less a month and many times people don’t catch them. My husband had one of these illegal charges happen every month for over a year before he caught it. Someone got his banking information and added this subtle fee that was overlooked (and his bank did not reimburse the money because we didn’t catch it right away).
Check your credit report regularly! You can do this for FREE through the government sponsored site Annual Credit Report. You are allowed three free reports annually so space them out every three months to keep a close eye on any unauthorized activity under your name.If something does show up that you didn’t approve take immediate action and have it fixed right away to prevent further problems.
By doing some simple steps you can protect yourself from the frustration of identity theft!