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​How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Posted on by Advantage Business Equipment
Image ​How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States, and every year more and more people find that their personal information has been compromised. Recovering from identity theft can be a long, difficult and expensive process, and the repercussions can follow you for years. That is because identity theft involves not only the misappropriation of money but the loss of your good name and credit rating as well.

There are a number of resources available to those who have fallen victim to the growing scourge of identity theft, but the best way to protect yourself is to prevent the fraud from happening in the first place. Not all cases of identity theft can be prevented, but there are some common sense steps you can take today that will greatly reduce your chances of becoming a victim.

Check Your Credit Report Today

If you have not already done so, now is the perfect time to check your credit report. If you have fallen victim to an identity thief, the proof will be in your credit report. Get a copy of your credit report from all three major reporting agencies Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You are entitled to a free copy of all three reports once a year the official site to request a copy is annualcreditreport.com. Watch out for scam sites and other unofficial sources those sites often require consumers to sign up for an expensive and often unnecessary credit monitoring service.

Read the report carefully, especially the section dealing with new accounts and credit inquiries. If you spot anything suspicious, contact the credit reporting agency immediately and ask them to research the situation. You can also ask that the reporting agency place a fraud alert on your account this notifies anyone else who sees the report that fraud is suspected.

Shred Confidential Mail

You can buy a personal shredder for as little as $10, but that device could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Shredding your confidential mail is one of the most effective ways to fight identity theft.

Many people assume that most identity theft happens online, but that is not necessarily the case. A great deal of identity theft takes place the old fashioned way with thieves going through the trash in search of bank statements, credit card bills, paycheck stubs and other confidential materials. Once those thieves have your Social Security number, credit card number and other information, they can open accounts in your name and wreck your good credit. Shredding those items can foil those attempts and keep your personal information safe.

Keep an Eye on Your Receipts

These days most store receipts do not contain full credit card numbers, but it is still important to watch them carefully. Some receipts still do contain enough information for a criminal to steal your identity. The best way to protect yourself is to shred the receipts you do not need and keep the ones you do in a home safe or secure storage area.

Use Strong Passwords

While a surprising amount of identity theft takes place offline, it is still important to protect yourself and your personal information on the Internet. Every day consumers order merchandise online, check their bank balances and invest money in mutual funds all actions that could potentially lead to identity theft.

The first line of defense in keeping your personal information safe is a strong password. It is important to avoid passwords that could be easily guessed by others things like your date of birth or the name of your pet. Keep in mind that identity theft can originate with someone you know - even a relative or trusted friend. Using a password that is easy to guess, or one that uses publically available information sends an open invitation to identity thieves.

When banking or investing online, only work with companies that use strong encryption and additional security measures over and above a strong password. These additional methods include registering your home computer with the site and creating challenge questions you must answer when logging on from another PC. These security measures help to protect you and prevent criminals from taking over your bank or brokerage account.

Change Passwords Often

It is not enough to create a strong password for your sensitive accounts. It is important to change those passwords regularly to keep identity thieves at bay. Changing passwords frequently will help to protect you from security breaches that can compromise account names and security information.

It is also a good idea to use different passwords for different sites, rather than the same one for everything. Using the same password everywhere can be convenient, but it can also be dangerous. One solution is to keep a master list of passwords in a safe location away from your computer.

There is no single cure for identity theft, and no surefire way to keep yourself and your personal information safe. There are, however, some common sense steps you can take to reduce your odds of becoming a victim. Using caution and common sense can go a long way both online and off.

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