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Identity Theft Protection
 Jun 08, 2004

Identity theft is a serious problem with terrible consequences. Identity theft protection is never fool proof but there are things you can do to protect yourself from stolen identity. This article provides tips on how to protect yourself from being a victim of identity theft.

Unfortunately, identity theft is becoming such a common crime that it is impossible to completely protect yourself. With information the way it is, it is impossible to guard against every eventuality when it comes to your personal information. However, it is possible to reduce your chances that your identity will be stole.

You can protect yourself from identity theft

You want to reduce the chances that someone will get your personal information and use it for their own purposes. It is possible, if you are careful, to significantly reduce that possibility that someone sinister will steal your identity. Here are some ways of protecting yourself from identity theft:

  • Be wary of disclosing personal information. This is rule #1 of protection yourself from identity theft. You should not give out your personal information to just anyone. Make sure that you are dealing with a reputable company before giving out the information. Do not give out personal information to people who call you and ask for it. Also, be aware that most reputable companies will not ask for personal information via email. Most entities that need personal information already have it. You should only have to give out the last four digits of an account or Social Security Number for confirmation. Never give out the full number.
  • Only carry what you need with you. Take only one debit card and maybe one credit card with you when you go out. Limit your ID cards as well. Only carry what you need. This way, the damage that an identity thief can do is severely limited. You should never carry your Social Security card with you. That should always be kept in a safe place. Also, do not carry account numbers, PINs and passwords with you. Memorize this information.
  • Activate new cards as soon as you get them. You should destroy the old cards immediately.
  • Keep away from easy to guess passwords and PINs. Your mother's maiden name is easy information to get a hold of. Birthdates and children's names are as well. Try to choose PINs and passwords that do not have personal meaning to you. Passwords are strongest when they combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers.
  • Invest in a shredder. Get a good shredder. You can get a good shredder for between $40 and $100. You want your shredder to be a cross-cutter. Also, make sure that it is rated to shred credit cards and data CDs. This will help you be able to easily pulverize personal information. Anything with personal information on it should be shredded. Pre-approved credit card offers should especially shredded. Immediately.
  • Do not put bills in your mailbox. One of the easiest ways for identity thieves to get information is to get to your mailbox before the mail carrier does. It is important to take bill payments directly to the post office. They are less likely to be intercepted there. Likewise, do not write account numbers and other similar information on the outside of envelopes.
  • Keep good records. Make sure you keep track of expenses and income. Make sure you have an idea of what you have bought. The check your account statements every month. This way, you can identify fraudulent charges quickly. Along these lines, it is also important that you regularly check your credit report for errors and possible suspicious activity.
  • Let your bank know if a statement doesn't arrive. If a statement does not arrive as usual, make sure you let your card issuer or bank know. Immediately. It might have been stolen. You can sign up for electronic delivery and avoid the hassle and risk of paper statements altogether.
  • Practice Internet security. Install Internet security on your computer to protect yourself when you are surfing online. Get a good program to protect your information with a firewall. Additionally, when you are done with a Web site that requires personal information (such as your bank Web site or online shopping), make sure you clear your browser's cache and close the window when you are done. This prevents third parties from getting the information.

While you may not be able to completely avoid identity theft, you can reduce the chances that you will be a victim. If you are careful with your personal information, and if you are cautious and vigilant in your financial dealings, you should be able to avoid the worst of identity theft.

Related Article: Identity Theft What To Do >>

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