Many people lock their doors, shut their blinds and wear their seatbelts, yet fail to protect one crucial piece of their lives: their identities. A Social Security number, full name and birth date is all a criminal needs to do serious damage to a person’s credit, wallet and security.
However, a few simple precautions can help ensure your personal information doesn’t get into the wrong hands.
Keep your Social Security number secure
Your Social Security number should only be given out when it is absolutely, 100 percent necessary.
Never write your Social Security number on your checks. Memorize your number so you do not have to reference your Social Security card, and keep your card in a safe location such as a fireproof safe in your closet, not in your wallet. It is a huge hassle to change your Social Security number, so make sure it remains confidential.
Protect your electronics
Your computer holds a wealth of personal information. If you shop online, utilize online banking programs or have a Facebook account, your personal information is out there. Installing firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer or laptop can help protect against online identity risks. Also, creating complex passwords that are not easy to guess, including capital letters, numbers and special characters, will help prevent hackers from accessing your accounts. Be sure to choose passwords you can remember without writing them down, as a sticky note under your keyboard is the first place an intruder will look.
Watch your transactions and accounts
Keeping an eye on your bank accounts can help you notice identity theft right away. Balance your checkbook every month and compare your records and receipts to your bank statements. Keeping up-to-date on your accounts can help you identify unknown transactions soon after they occur and fix any problems before they get out of hand.
Also, check your credit report regularly. You may see it for free once a year from each of the three credit unions (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax). Credit Karma is another resource if you would like to keep track of your credit more often than three times a year.
Cover your bases
It is always better to be safe than sorry. Always shield the keypad when typing in PIN numbers and passwords in public locations. Be sure to shred old receipts, credit offers, account statements and expired credit/debit cards. Everything you do not shred should be kept in a fireproof safe with a code.
Identity theft can be devastating to your credit and time-consuming to fix. By following these simple tips, you may save you and your family a lot of unnecessary time, money and stress.
Please visit https://www.usa.gov/identity-theft for more information.
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