The Federal Trade Commission estimates that there are up to 9 million Americans that have their identities stolen EACH year. It is one of the fastest growing crimes. As of now, there is no way we can prevent ID theft, but you can begin following these steps to protect yourself and your identity.
PROTECTING YOURSELF ONLINE
- Do not open any emails you are not familiar with – unsolicited emails. Emails could contain pictures that could have malicious viruses/worms. Be sure to have your email filters on. Always sign off if you are in a public place (internet cafe, library).
- Pop-ups may be very interesting. Do not download anything you are not familiar with such as pop-ups for screen savers, even pop-ups that say you have trojans and worms on your computer and you have to download the remove right away! (unless it is from your actual anti-virus program installed on your computer already)
- Try to stick with popular sites when shopping online such as Amazon, Overstock, Zappos, NewEgg, etc … Don’t click on flashy advertisements (you’re our 99999999999th winner!), it will usually ask for your personal information.
- Keep your anti-spyware, anti-virus software up to date. This ensures that you are being protected constantly. It is a good idea to run virus scans weekly to prevent trojans, keyloggers, etc. AVG is a free anti-spyware that you can download.
- Do not give out personal information – phone number, address, SSN, credit card/bank accounts unless you KNOW the website. Always read the privacy statements of the website.
- When choosing a password for a website, do not choose ones that has your personal information, such as the last four digits of your social security number, your mothers maiden name, or your date of birth. Rather, choose something with letters and numbers combined.
- Get a free credit report each year from – The top three nationwide credit reports are from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
PROTECTING YOURSELF OFFLINE
- Make photocopies of important documents such as your drivers license, your passport, your social security card, credit cards. This becomes VERY important if you ever get your identity stolen or even if you lose your wallet. Keep them in a safe place at home or in a security box at the bank.
- Shred or burn mail that you get with solicitation of credit cards, loan offers, sweepstakes. I usually have a pile of these, and during the winter time, I would throw them into the fireplace. ID thefts will look through garbage to find ANY information on you.
- Opt out for pre screened credit card offers by calling 1–888–567–8688. For the deaf of hard of hearing, you can opt out at their website. Doing this will stop the credit card offers, resulting in less information being passed around.
- Do not provide any information over the phone unless you initiated the call. Phone lines could be tapped. Scam artists could pretend to be banks to get your information. This includes credit card numbers, bank accounts, addresses, etc.
- Check your credit card and bank statements for all purchases. Verify that you did make the purchases listed. If you suspect that a bill might be late, call the company right away! Doing so will help you catch any mistakes, if the theft changed your information, or if someone stole your statements (they usually have account numbers, so be careful!)