Learn how to avoid identity theft at home, online, and on Facebook with these 8 tips.
Identity theft is a growing crime that affects one in twenty Americans, so in this article I’ll give you 8 tips for preventing it.
And at the end of the article I’ll link to my interview with John Sileo, an identity theft expert and author. You won’t want to miss my conversation with him about how identity theft cost him over $300,000, destroyed his business, and almost landed him in jail. Even though identity monitoring services can’t eliminate fraud, John recommends a service that you’ve probably never heard of. His experience is a good reminder that almost half of the worst identity crimes are committed by people the victim knows.
The podcast edition of this article was sponsored by Go to Meeting. With this meeting service, you can hold your meetings over the Internet and give presentations, product demos, and training sessions right from your PC. Visit gotomeeting.com, click the “try it free” button, and use promo code: Podcast.
8 Tips for Identity Theft Protection
To make sure you don’t become a victim of identity theft, here are eight important tips to follow:
Identity Theft Protection Tip #1: Carry Less Data
If you don’t carry sensitive information in your wallet or purse, it can’t be taken from you. So pare down what you carry to the bare essentials and do it right now. You should never carry your Social Security card because you don’t need it on an everyday basis.
Eliminate paper checks from your wallet and use a debit or credit card to pay for things instead. Debit cards aren’t as safe as credit cards, but they’re much safer than paper checks. That’s because checks reveal your bank account and routing number and it just takes one stolen check for a thief to make an endless number of copies. If you must carry checks, don’t keep a high balance in your checking account—transfer excess money into a savings account—so you limit your risk. Additionally, never have personal information such as your Social Security number, driver’s license number, address, or telephone number, printed on a check.
Identity Theft Protection Tip #2: Review Your Free Credit Reports
There are three credit agencies that maintain your credit files: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The official Web site to get your free report from each of them once a year is annualcreditreport.com. Space out your requests so you get a different report every four months. None of the reports show your credit score (because you have to pay for those), but they will show you if an identity thief has gone on a spending spree using credit opened in your name!
Identity Theft Protection Tip #3: Freeze Your Credit
A credit freeze is an agreement that you make with the credit agencies that prevents anyone from opening a new account in your name. A credit freeze doesn’t protect you against fraudulent use of an existing account—like a credit card you already have—but it’s a proactive measure that gives you control over who can access your credit file. Depending on where you live there may be a small fee to place a credit freeze or to have it lifted. Take a look at the credit freeze rules for your state at financialprivacynow.com.