“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin
Although Benjamin Franklin probably wasn’t thinking about your credit score when he penned this famous line, it certainly applies to identity theft.
In fact, there’s a new victim of identity theft in the U.S. every 2 seconds. While not all cases of identity theft are preventable, most are. All it takes is a few precautionary measures to drastically improve your chances of never having to deal with the enormous fallout of identity theft.
Here are 7 easy tips for preventing identity theft.
1. Get a paper shredder
Seriously. You can find a decent paper shredder for under $30, and it’s the most effective way of making sure your sensitive documents, papers, receipts, etc. aren’t waiting to be snatched up by dumpster-diving fraudsters.
2. Install an effective firewall on your computer
For would-be identity thieves who are a tad more tech-savvy than their dumpster-diving cohorts, a firewall is one of the best lines of defense against hackers trying to steal sensitive information from your home computer or laptop.
3. Be aware of who’s watching over your shoulder
Simply be aware of who is around you when you’re typing in a PIN or accessing a bank account on your mobile phone. Much of the time, identity theft is a crime of opportunity – so don’t give those around you the opportunity to steal your identity.
4. Keep and organize paper records
It’s important to keep and organize paper records (think bank statements, receipts, invoices, etc.) to track all your accounts, spending, contracts, terms and conditions, and more. Basically, it helps you notice if something goes awry, and makes it easier to dispute any fraudulent charges.
5. Don’t keep your social security card in your wallet
Your wallet is probably chock full of identifying information. When you lose your wallet (or it gets stolen), you can always cancel your credit cards, rendering them useless to would-be thieves. But if your social security card is in there, an identity thief can use it to open accounts in your name, get approved for loans, and more.
Instead, keep your social security card in a safe, secure place back at home.
6. Don’t write account numbers or social security numbers on your checks
It used to be standard procedure to write account numbers or social security numbers on the check for some payments. Don’t ever do this. If the check falls into the wrong hands, not only do they have your name and routing/account number, they will have even more identifying information to help them steal your identity.
7. Request your credit report at least once per year
Your credit report contains much more information than just a three digit number. It is a record of all your open and closed accounts, how much is owed and to whom, along with much more data about your credit worthiness. It’s also one of the best places to spot identity theft before it becomes too big of a problem.
Thankfully, you are entitled by law to one free credit report per year.
Learn what to do when you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft
Next week we’ll post about the measures you should take if you become a victim of identity theft. In the meantime, read our credit repair tips and tricks for more personal finance advice.
photo credit: 2013-06-19: (169/365) Sunflower Seed Bandit P1090823 via photopin (license)