Top 9 Ways How To Prevent Identity Theft From Happening To You

by Hank Coleman

Use a shredder to prevent identity theft

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States last year. Over 11 million Americans have been the victim of identity theft last year. One in every 20 U.S. adults was a victim of identity theft.

On average, an identity was stolen every three seconds. A stolen identity can be used to open new credit card accounts, apply for mortgages, and even take out payday loans.

Year after year, identity thieves become increasingly more resourceful and ingenious. They find new ways to steal personal information from unsuspecting Americans. Simply monitoring credit reports just is not good enough to defend against thieves. You have to be proactive in your defense of identity theft.

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In the United States, there are over 170 million credit card holders. And, more than 10 million of them have ultimately become the victims of identity theft.

Unfortunately, identity theft is not left solely up to credit card users when businesses and the government continue to suffer break-ins or lose critical data with compromising information about people. Cyber crimes have also quickly fueled the identity theft crazy. Sign up for LifeLock today and get 30 days risk free plus 10% off.

There are more and more reports of identity theft and identity fraud on the news every day which makes the crime seem to be a more common occurrence than ever before. It is more important than ever to take steps to ensure it does not happen to you.

How to Prevent Identity Theft

There are many ways that you can help yourself and protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft. Here are five fairly easy, cheap, effective, and popular methods to protect your identity.

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Invest In A Paper Shredder To Prevent Identity Theft

This simple little invention could save you a lot of hassle and prevent identity theft. Make sure you shred all of your documents associated with both your identification and your finances. This includes all credit card and debit card statements, letters from the bank, any type of bank receipt, and other pertinent paperwork with information on it.

When in doubt, it is safer to shred. This is one of the simplest and least expensive ways to protect your identity from theft.

Be On The Lookout For Scams

Everyone has been targeted by some sort of scam at some point in their life. You must be extremely careful when dealing with anyone or any company that you are not 100% aware of and do not 100% trust.

Email scams can often be hard to decipher. You may receive an email that looks like it is from your bank that could turn out to be a phishing scam looking for your login and password.

Another popular scam that tries to steal your identity can come over the phone where someone calls you and pretends to be a representative from a company, and they begin asking for details about you, your life, your banking activities, and other confidential information over the phone.

Many thieves may try to ask you for various information such as your date of birth, passwords, usernames, secret answers, mother’s maiden name, or even your address in an attempt to put together a complete picture of your identity.

Be Diligent To Protect Yourself And Prevent Identity Theft

This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised at how many people leave their purse lying around or make their passwords for important financial accounts as easy as ‘123’ or “password”.

Try not to keep important cards such as your Social Security card with you. While creating passwords make sure they are complicated and extremely difficult for anyone to guess. You should include a mixture of numbers and letters in both upper and lower case and even symbols if possible.

Check Your Credit Report Regularly

Make sure you monitor your credit report on a regular basis. You should be on the lookout for anything odd or a new credit card or account that you did not open that is now on your credit report. Many financial planners recommend checking your credit reports at least every year at a minimum.

You should also check each of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to insure that all three match with the exact same data. myFICO is a great company that can give you not only access to your credit reports but also your FICO score, which is the primary credit score that over 90% of lenders use.

You do not want to be turned down for a loan for a past due account on your credit report that you did not even open. Do not wait until then to find out the bad news. You should be constantly checking your credit history at least once a year or more.

Hire A Company To Protect Your Identity

There are several great companies that will provide you with services that monitor not only your credit report for fraudulent activity but also monitor all aspects of your financial life. One of the most popular companies is LifeLock.

Both offer several products that will keep a close eye on all three of your credit reports, monitor changes, looks for exposure of your personal information, looks for potential identity theft occurrences, and alert you as well. LifeLock offers a $1 million identity theft insurance that will help you hire lawyers, experts, investigators, and consultants.

The consultants will help you recover from identity theft and get your good name and credit back if their services do not protect you in the first place. They are that confident in their ability to protect your identity from theft.

According to recent studies conducted by the Federal Trade Commission, credit card fraud used in identity thefts account for only approximately 17% of all identity theft cases. While credit card fraud is the leading issue with identity theft, other crimes that identity thieves commit include government benefits fraud, employment fraud, bank fraud, and loan fraud. Sign up for LifeLock today and get 30 days risk free plus 10% off..LifeLock

Secure Your Junk Mail

Identity thieves can obtain information by stealing your mail. Junk mail, bank statements, bills, pre-approved credit offers, and W-2s all contain valuable information for thieves to scrounge. Because some identity theft is still done by trash digging, all read mail should go through the shredder before it goes to the trash.

Reconcile Your Bank And Credit Card Statements

You are on the hook for more money if you delay in reporting a theft of your identity and fraudulent use of your credit cards and especially your debit card. You should be sure to reconcile bank and credit card statements against all of your receipts.

You need to be on the watch for any charges that you may not recognize. If you find a discrepancy, notify your bank or credit card company immediately, no matter how small. Many criminals try small amounts as a test before they go for a larger score.

Beware Of Emails And Attachments

With modern technology, identity thieves can access your information without ever leaving their home. Beware of unsolicited emails asking for your sensitive information. You should never open an email from someone or a company you do not know, and you should never click on a link inside the email or download an attachment from someone you do not know and trust.

By clicking on links within the email, you can visit websites that record your personal and financial information and automatically upload malicious software that is designed to steal your passwords and other account information by monitoring your keystrokes. Free or fee, anti-virus programs are designed to help protect you.

Avoid Fire Sharing Networks

Avoid file sharing networks which are quickly becoming illegal and authorities are cracking down on. Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing can give hackers and identity thieves direct and open access to the inside of your computer and your personal information stored on your hard drive without your knowledge.
#1 in Identity Theft Protection

Preventative measures are a good start. But there are experts who dedicate themselves every day to outsmarting the identity thieves like the experts at LifeLock. It may be a smart and inexpensive precaution to let a security company like LifeLock help protect you from identity theft.

LifeLock provides a proactive identity theft service, specializing in the prevention of identity theft rather than the reporting of it. LifeLock Identity Alert™ system provides broad identity coverage, control, and early notification of both credit and non-credit related identity threats.

They also search over 10,000 sites for the illegal selling or trading of your personal information.
LifeLock
guarantees their services so much that they will spend up to $1 million to hire lawyers, investigators, consultants, and whatever else it takes to restore your name and help you recover the direct losses from the identity theft if you are a victim while using their services.

One Time Is Too Many

One time is too many when identity theft is involved, and two times in a week a big flashing warning sign that something is seriously wrong. Last week my wife received a text message saying our cell phone bill was $1,000 this month! Of course, that proceeded the panicked phone call that I received from her immediately afterwards. Identity fraud is very scary!

After spending almost thirty minutes on the phone with my cell phone company, it was determined that someone had illegally used my account to order a brand new iPad2 tablet. I was incredibly impressed by the way my cell phone carrier, Verizon Wireless, handled the whole situation.

I would have let it go as bad luck and just changed my passwords and other security features until I received an email from American Express a couple days later. They had detected an irregular purchase on my charge card and requested that I contact them before they approved the charges.

Once again I am completely blown away by the steps that companies such as American Express and Verizon Wireless and the excellent customer service they have shown.This continues to show that you should do business with outstanding companies with good reputations. I can only imagine what would have happened if I had used a fly by the night type of operation. You can recover from identity theft though.

Warning Signs That You Are A Victim Of Identity Theft

You do not have to wait for a text message or an email from your credit card companies to find out that you are a victim of identity theft. Below are a few of the classic warning signs of identity theft.

1. You are unexpectedly denied a loan or credit card
2. You receive collection calls for accounts that you never opened.
3. You notice accounts that you never opened on your credit report.
4. Your fail to receive mail, credit card statements, or bills.
5. Your credit report contains inquiries from businesses you don’t recognize.

But, the good news is that consumers do not have to take this illegal activity lying down. There are several ways that you can combat the rise of identity theft and keep it from affecting you.

Sign up for LifeLock today and save 10% off your final purchase.

Five Ways To Prevent Identity Theft From Happening To You
How To Protect Yourself from Identity Theft From Happening To You

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About Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is the founder of Money Q&A, an Iraq combat veteran, a Dr. Pepper addict, and a self-proclaimed investing junkie. He has written extensively for many nationally known financial websites and publications. Hank holds a Master’s Degree in Finance and a graduate certificate in personal financial planning. Email him directly at Hank[at]MoneyQandA.com.


Hank Coleman has written 575 articles on Money Q&A. Learn more about Money Q&A on Twitter @MoneyQandA and @HankColeman.


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Derek

Great article, Hank! You have covered the bases pretty well, as there are so many different methods these thieves use to steal your identity these days. It’s not just “dumpster diving” any longer, they steal from your computer, your mailbox, and they are getting more sophisticated each year. Best thing is to get ID theft insurance, I sure did and sleep much better!

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