Let’s check in to see how you’re doing before we go any further. That was a lot of information to absorb and for someone who’s new to the whole world of Identity Theft it was likely very overwhelming.
You’re doing really well though and I’m proud of you! You made it through the most difficult part of this book. You learned all about the scariness of ID theft and the many forms it can take and look, you’re still here. Now it’s time for your reward. The first portion of this book may have caused you to feel helpless, frightened or without power against the enormity of the problem. Now however it’s time for you to learn that there is something you can do about it. Knowledge is power and here is where you become EMPOWERED!
Protecting Your Mail
Remember how we talked about thieves that would steal your mail from the garbage and even from your own mailbox? Well don’t let them! Make sure that every single piece of mail with any kind of identifying information on it is shredded before you throw it away. Simply tearing it into a few pieces is not adequate protection. This only provides the thief with a fairly basic jigsaw puzzle to your most valued information. Invest in a small shredder for your home. These are very inexpensive especially when you consider that the minimal cost of the item could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in the long run, not to mention a huge headache. If you can’t purchase one yourself then take your mail to work with you and use the shredder in your office.
A locked mailbox will not completely guarantee your protection from identity thieves but it certainly may help in dissuading their attempts to steal your mail. Look into purchasing a mailbox that has a slot in the top for the mail to be slid into but where you need a key to actually remove it. This way, if your mailbox is broken into you will at least know it right away and will perhaps be able to notify creditors, banks and other companies before any real damage is done.
More Key tips…
Bills always tend to arrive on a monthly basis like clockwork so pay attention to billing cycles. If a credit card or utility bill does not arrive on time, contact the company to make sure it has not been redirected.
Safeguard Your PIN and ATM/Credit Card
You know that moment in the store when you’re just about to pay for your purchases using your ATM card and the thought crosses your mind that you should probably use your free hand to cover the keypad so that no one can see the number you’re punching in? But then you don’t do it because you think that the cashier or person behind you in line will just think that you’re being silly and over reacting – I mean, it’s not like you have the code to the universe right? Wrong! It may not be the code to THE universe but it is the code to YOUR universe. Who cares what other people think or how you may look to them – you need to protect that code because it is the key to your mortgage and bill payments, to your children’s education fund, to your next family vacation and to the food, clothing and supplies that sustain your family!
Make sure you are aware of where your ATM or credit card is at all times. When you hand your card to the cashier or to the waiter at the restaurant, is that card ever out of your sight? Does it disappear for a moment underneath the counter while it’s in their hand or is it left to sit on the far side of the counter until the transaction is approved? You may not be able to prevent the fact that the waiter needs to take your card with him to process it, but you can certainly be more aware of situations like this when they do occur.
Now that you know what ATM skimming is you can be more aware of machines that don’t seem quite right. If a machine looks as though it has been altered or tampered with in any way simply do not use it. If a machine has a sign posted on it telling you that the ATM instructions have changed or that you should swipe your card “here” first before inserting it into the reader, or something to that effect then it’s not a machine you should be using. No bank is ever going to post instructions such as these.
Don’t give your PIN to anyone
Beware of people who try to “help” you at bank machines
If your card is not returned to you once you have completed the transaction or pressed the cancel button, contact your financial institution immediately
Check your bank and credit card statements regularly and carefully to make sure that there are no unauthorized transactions
Protect Your Personal Information
It’s great to have a trusting nature and all but it is possible to sometimes be too trusting. Don’t provide anyone with information that they have no need for regardless of what they claim their reason is for requiring it. Always keep in mind what one can do with a few key pieces of information such as your SSN or driver license number.
More key tips…
Be careful of who around you might be listening to your conversation when you are speaking either on the telephone or to someone in person and are providing them with personal information.
Refrain from including your date of birth, SSN or drivers license number on job applications or resumes
Question any business or company who asks for your SSN
Avoiding a Phishing Scam
A very large portion of the population today has access to the internet and email within their own homes. Any of us who aren’t so technologically advanced at home, yet who work in an office type environment are likely to be pretty internet savvy at work. This means that an awful lot of us are susceptible to being sucked into those phishing scams. However you can avoid falling into this trap by playing it smart.
More Key Tips…
Use anti-virus software and a firewall to prevent phishing emails from tracking your internet activities
Never email personal or financial information – email is not a secure method of transmission
Immediately delete any emails that appear to be fraudulent
Be cautious about opening any attachments or downloading files from email regardless of who is sending them
Do not reply to or open any links that are provided in phishing emails
If you are concerned about an account that is referred to in an email, you are best to physically telephone the company whom the email is claiming to be from and ask them personally if there is a problem
Look for bad grammar and misspelled words in phishing emails
Legitimate businesses and financial institutions are not likely to ask for personal information via email
Emails that do not address you by your full name but instead sometimes just by your email address are a tip off
When you must provide financial or other sensitive information online be sure that the site you are using is secure. Look for a lock icon on the status bar or a website that begins with https: (the “s” stands for secure).
Additional Preventative Measures
I think you’re probably getting the point now. There are many things that you can do when it comes to protecting yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft. It may not be possible to follow every single piece of advice that this book provides and that’s okay. The key here is awareness.
Here is why awareness is so critically important. Have you ever been really afraid to do something completely new, or been extremely intimidated by something that you knew very little about? Well I certainly have and I’m sure that quite literally everyone else in this world has been as well at one point or another. In fact, it’s simply human nature to fear the unknown and I believe that the same can be said for something like identity theft. Before you knew what it was all about the entire idea of it was scary, but now you’re becoming more familiar with it and you are gaining the tools and knowledge that will allow you to effectively deal with it.
Let’s provide you with even more knowledge now and suggest a few more ways to prevent identity theft from occurring.
Contact the Better Business Bureau in your area if you receive suspicious phone calls or emails in regards to a particular organization or business
Ensure that all of your accounts require passwords in order for changes or inquiries to be made to them
When choosing, make sure you pick difficult passwords (do not use family or pet names etc), do not use the same passwords for each account and memorize them rather than writing them down
Carry only the cards that you actually need, this includes your Social Security card
When you are asked for personal information ask why it is needed, who will have access to it, how it is to be used and how they will protect that information from others
Access your credit report on an annual basis to make sure that it is accurate and that there has not been an accumulation of unauthorized debt
Inquire as to the policy of those businesses that you do business with when it comes to the discarding of personal/financial information
Contact the three major credit reporting agencies to place a security alert on your file – this will ensure that you are contacted prior to the opening of any new credit cards under your name