Preventing Identity Theft

I wrote an identity theft post a little more than a year ago that was based on a Washington Post article that stated that identity theft hit 11.1 million victims a year for a total of $54 billion. That is astounding to me. Here are a few easy ways you can protect yourself from identity theft.

Preventing Identity Theft Tip #1 – Monitor Your Credit Reports

You are entitled to see a free copy of each of the main three credit reports every year. I personally use the official site, Annualcreditreport.com and spread out my enquiries. So I try to check Experian every April, Transunion every August, and Equifax every December. This way I am getting a solid report of my credit history every 4 months. If my identity is stolen to open a credit account, I will know fairly quickly and can start fixing the situation.

Preventing Identity Theft Tip #2 – Protect Your Documents

Another great step to keeping yourself safe is to keep a close handle on any of the documents that contain information like your sex, zip code, date of birth, and social security number. I would highly suggest shredding or burning the documents that you don’t need and keeping the rest like your mortgage documents in a locked storage cabinet or box. If you receive your mail in a regular, unsecured mail box, you may want to think of getting a P.O. Box instead. I know that step may be a hassle, but it is a safety step to be considered if you are worried at all about identity theft.

Preventing Identity Theft Tip #3 – Go Electronic

The less personal information you have in easily seen paper documents the better. Try to switch over to electronic statements and documentation whenever possible and choose passwords with a combination of letters, numbers, and/or characters that would not be easy to guess. Also remember to change those passwords frequently. I really, really dislike changing my passwords, but even I do it at least once a year. If you do go electronic, please make sure you have anti-virus software as well to protect you from the worms out there.

Preventing Identity Theft Tip #4 – Develop a Healthy Paranoia

Are all of your Facebook buddies out to get you? No, but if just one wrong person knows you will be out of town, you may find many documents missing when you get home that could help someone steal your identity. Also, giving any useful info out online like your date of birth helps the computer savvy thieves target you. I would highly suggest removing personal information from your online accounts. Don’t worry, you can always remind your friends and family in person when your birthday is coming up. That high school buddy that you haven’t seen for 10-20 years doesn’t really care anyway.

Can you think of any other easy ways to prevent identity theft? What have I missed?

Edwin C

Edwin is a marketer, social media influencer and head writer here at Money In The 20’s. He manages a large network of high quality finance blogs and social media accounts. You can connect with him via email here.

8 thoughts on “Preventing Identity Theft

  • June 6, 2011 at 11:38 am
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    Going electronic is an excellent option, I have to agree. Despite all the fuss about phishing and pharming, online identity theft only accounts for 11% of the problem. The rest is a result of the old fashioned stolen wallets and mail, mostly by people we know.

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    • June 7, 2011 at 3:23 pm
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      I didn’t know that 11% statistic, thanks!

      Reply
  • June 6, 2011 at 2:36 pm
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    One of the biggest sources of identity theft is offices you frequent such doctors/dentists. In the news, we often hear about hackers getting large numbers of identities, however it is more likely by someone you know. The only way to protect yourself is by periodically checking your credit reports or a service like Lifelock.

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    • June 7, 2011 at 3:24 pm
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      I forgot to mention services that are offered, thanks krantcents!

      Reply
  • June 7, 2011 at 11:09 am
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    Also, on your number 3, make sure that your one awesome password you come up with full of letter, numbers and specials characters like #@@!%&^% isn’t your one password for everything… all it would take is one person figuring out your password for your E-mail account, and suddenly they have access to everything else.

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    • June 7, 2011 at 3:25 pm
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      I sort of stink at this. I have like 4-5 passwords that I use for everything instead of one for each…

      Reply
  • June 7, 2011 at 1:36 pm
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    This may fit under one of your categories already up there, but I’ve heard to avoid typing in your ATM/debit pin number whenever possible. This decreases the chances that thieves can steal your pin number and take cash right out of your checking account. There’s a lot of other tips like this, but I thought I’d just share the one.

    Overall, I think monitoring credit is definitely important. On top of monitoring your report, you should also scrutinize monthly credit card bills for fraudulent charges. This has happened to me multiple times, and I’ve simply been able to dispute charges and have them removed immediately.

    Reply
    • June 7, 2011 at 3:25 pm
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      Good point – especially since thieves sometimes put in fake scanners just to steal your debit card info and pin.

      Reply

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