Identity theft is a serious crime, and it can ruin its victim’s lives. Protecting personal information is difficult to do with technology constantly evolving. Cash is becoming obsolete, and debit and credit cards are the standard method of payment for products and services. There are eight simple tips for consumers to follow to prevent identity theft from happening to them.
1) Do not carry multiple credit cards, birth certificate, passport, or a social security card except when it is necessary. Reducing the amount of personal and financial information in purses and wallets reduces the amount of information that a thief can take. Make a copy of everything in case someone steals your information.
2) Delete e-mails from financial institutions, even when they are legitimate. There are a rising number of phishing e-mails that look like they originate from legitimate financial institutions, but are actually criminals trying to gather personal financial information. The usual tell-tale sign in phishing emails is you are asked to click on a link. Hover your cursor over the link, and look to the bottom left hand side of your screen. If the web address that the highlighted link shows is not the address of your financial institution, then forward the email to the security department of your relevant bank and delete it.
3) Consumers need to make sure their antivirus software automatically updates to receive the newest patches to prevent viruses and hackers from infecting the computer. Anyone who does not have an antivirus program installed makes it easy for criminals to infect your computer and gain access to personal information.
4) When out, women need to keep their purses close to the body to prevent stolen credit cards and wallets. Do not leave purses in restaurant booths, church pews, or at work. This is an easy chance for a criminal to take credit cards and other financial information. Never leave your purse, wallet or any kind of valuables in your car if you are not in it. When you leave your car, make sure any potential criminals cannot get access to your personal items by simply smashing a window.
5) People who switch banks need to shred their old checks, credit cards, and ATM cards. Pick up new checks at the bank instead of having them send them through the mail. Do not throw old canceled credit cards in the trash. Criminals know ways to reactivate the cards and reuse the numbers. A cross-shredder machine is good to use for identity theft protection.
6) Do not give out personal or financial information over the telephone, unless people can guarantee the institution is legitimate. There are criminals that set up fake companies to gather personal information.
7) You should create a list of all your bank accounts and credit card accounts in case you ever need to report stolen cards. Many people store these lists in a secure place, like a safe. Credit card companies will cancel any stolen or missing cards, and reissue new ones.
8) Limit social security card exposure. When using the internet to apply for new credit cards, make sure the antivirus and spyware programs are up to date. Hackers can filter data packets to get social security numbers off computers. Make sure the website secures and encrypts personal information when applying for credit cards.
Stolen identities ruins people’s lives every day. It is important for consumers to know these eight simple ways to prevent criminals from stealing their identities. Although the crime gangs are getting smarter, by abiding by these eight rules, you should make it difficult enough for any potential criminals to be dissuaded from attempting to make money at your expense.