Prior to the dawn of the Internet the term identity theft would conjure up images of pick pockets and dumpster diving. With the advent of the information age, Identity fraud or impersonation has steadily become a much more prevalent crime in our society. In Canada 20% of us have been victims of identity theft. Who wants a collection call regarding an overdue amount on a card you never knew you had? Educating yourself is the best deterrent.
What’s in your trash? Identity thieves obtain your information from the items you put at your curb on trash day, and even from the receipts you throw out in a public garbage can. Even an out of date Mortgage statement or a tax statement has enough information on it to get them started in duplicating your identity. The solution is simple, shred or destroy anything that has your name on it prior to throwing it out. Digital information stored on your computer or CD’s is a little harder to re-cycle. If you are selling your old computer or donating it, often wiping, deleting or reformatting will not be enough. Depending on your computer, research what software you need to wipe your hard drive clean for good.
Good Old Fashion Mail. Do you make sure you get all your statements from whom you should monthly? Make it a priority of opening and reading every bill and statement you get monthly. What if one went missing would you ever know it? Identity thieves often pray on pre approved credit cards and will often commit mail fraud to do it. Make sure you know if anything goes missing so you are one step ahead and can call your bank and change your information before they use it.
Paying Bills On Line. It’s difficult not to use the Internet for some kind of transactions, weather it’s making sure a phone bill is correct or banking in general. The key is to make sure you are using a secured page to do so. Look for a lock in the browser bar or “https” that means your data will be sent encrypted. Beware of “Free Trials”. They may be a net set up to catch your personal information to use it to further re-create your identity or to obtain your credit card info.
Why Obtain Your Own Credit Report Annually. If you don’t know what yours looks like how do you know you are not already a victim of identity theft? Usually most people find out when it’s too late and they are in need of credit. Stay ahead of the criminals and protect yourself.
Create A Secure Password. Your password should be made up of upper and lower case letters and numbers. This makes for a stronger encryption. One tip is to use numbers that look like letters. Substitute 5 for an S for example.
Social Security Number? Memorize It? Keep your S.I.N. out of your wallet! It is the one number associated with you that, in the wrong hands could lead to years of bad credit.