Tuesday, December 24, 2013

5 Ways You Can Lower Your Risk of Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. With the interconnectedness of countries, people, and information systems, it has become easier for identity thieves to hack into your accounts and steal your personal information, allowing them to assume your identity and wreak havoc on your life. Fortunately, there are ways you can protect yourself against these criminals. While there is never a guarantee that you won't fall victim to an identity theft, by taking some simple, preventative security measures you can help ensure your safety online and restore your peace of mind.

Guard Your Information

Many people have their social security cards with them in their wallets, along with their driver's license and credit cards. Imagine what would happen if your wallet or purse was stolen. The person who stole it would have access not only to your credit card numbers and basic information, but your social security number, as well. Always make sure your social security card, passwords, ATM PIN numbers, and other sensitive information is not stored anywhere that someone could easily find if they stole your wallet or purse.

Be Observant

It is very common to receive your bank statement in the mail or a statement notification online and ignore it. Identity thieves rely on this behavior in order to get away with their scams. Many identity thieves would be caught earlier on if the person whose identity they stole had looked at their credit card and bank statements. Always make sure you scan for any suspicious activity, and report anything that is out of place to your bank immediately.

Make Sure You're Secure

When you shop online or bank, always ensure the website has a security certification so your information is secure. You can tell whether or not a website has this certification and security by checking in the browser box right before the "http". If there's a green icon with a padlock or similar image, the site is protected. But if the icon is not there and the box or icon (or sometimes the text) is not green, you are not on a secure site. Never shop or bank on a website without the green icon indicating that it is secure.

Take Care What You Share

Shared computers can be an open door to identity theft if you're not careful. Any website you visit will result in your web browser leaving a cookie, or tracking device, that shows where you've been online. But if you go to your bank website, shop online, or enter personal information anywhere, the next person might be able to go through your history and find your information. Always clear all cookies before you leave the computer, and completely log out of all account-based sites.

Post Office Only

There are remote mailbox locations all over your city, and they make it extremely convenient for you to deposit mail. But they also make it convenient for thieves to steal your outgoing mail before the mail carrier gets to it. Never deposit bills or anything with personal information in a remote location; take it straight to the post office.

By following these tips and applying them to your daily life, you can help prevent identity theft from happening to you. Always keep your information secure, and never share your passwords with anyone. Don't carry valuable information like your social security number with you, and never print it on your checks. By keeping your information as safe as possible, you can help avoid becoming the victim of an identity thief.

Lewis Brooks researches technology and safety. He often blogs about everyday concerns of virtual safety in the modern world.

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