Tips to Reduce the Risk of Identity Theft

Identity theft is a very common crime, which is not always detected right away. In a study by the FCC, it was found that over five years, approximately 30 million people were the victims of identity theft. Of those victims, a quarter were not aware they have been victimized until they tried to use their credit, only to be denied.

In life, there is no way to guarantee that you won't be the victim of identity theft, but there are some things you can do to help reduce the risk.

  • Firs and foremost, never give your personal information out to strangers. This is true of people you meet, people you talk to on the phone, and people that send you emails. If you did not initiate the contact, you should be instantly wary of anyone requesting your personal information.
  • Listen to your gut. If you feel something doesn't feel right or you think there is even a chance that something is wrong, don't give out any more information. Request for the individuals phone number and contact information, so you can research their company. Often, a simple Google search will revel that it is a scam.
  • Don't carry your social security number with you. There is rarely a need for the social security card anymore and when you do need it, you usually know ahead of time, such as when you are applying for a job.
  • When ever you rent a car or fill out any other contract with your personal information on it, destroy it or lock it up when it is no longer needed. Also, inquire into how the company protects your information. If nothing else, this lets management know that people are concerned and if enough people do it, they might get the hint.
  • Never let your credit card out of your site. This is common at restaurants, where the credit card processor may be in the back. If the business does take your credit card out of site, make sure to speak with management, so they know that this is not acceptable. Vote with your wallet and let them know why you won't be using their store anymore. Again, after they hear it enough, they may just get the hint.
  • Be very careful with your mail and who has access to it. If you are going out of town, arrange for someone who you trust to pick it up or stop it at the post office.
  • When traveling, avoid carrying around any extra information or cards. It is also a good idea to not use a personal check book, instead relying on travelers checks or credit cards. This way, if someone steals your wallet, you do not have to worry about your personal account.
  • If you receive an email that you know is an attempt at identity theft, do not visit the site or respond to the email. Often, the criminal has bought a list of email addressed and if you respond, then they know your email is valid. Also, even by visiting the site, you may be infected with a virus or at the very least, the criminal will know your computers address.
  • Never download files from people you do not know or install programs that you are not familiar with. A popular trick is to send the victim a link to a video that does not work. Then, the criminal will prompt the victim to download a program so they can watch the video.
  • Download a Linux Live CD to do your online banking or buying. A Linux Live CD lets you run Linux from your computer, without installing anything. Simply insert the CD, restart the Computer, and you will be able to run Linux. The CD can not be changed, so as long as you download it from a known source, you can be reasonably sure that it is free of viruses or key loggers. You can take the CD with you and use it at most places that offer free computers. Otherwise, you risk using an infected computer. This is even a good idea at home, especially for Window's users.
  • Don't keep any personal information in your car or on your laptop.
  • Save all receipts, bills, and any other documents. Do not throw them in the trash and instead shred or otherwise destroy them when you no longer need them.
  • Regularly check your bank account, credit lines, and credit reports for fraudulent claims. It is possible to receive a free copy of your credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies each year, so if you get one every four months, you do not have to pay for checking your credit report. You can goto AnnualCreditReport.com to sign up for your free report and again, only request one at a time instead of getting all three at once.

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