In the new year, it’s a good idea to add identity theft protection measures to your resolutions to make 2012 your best year ever. The following is adapted from the Identity Theft Resource Center website:
1. Lock up your social security card! Get it out of your wallet! Put this valuable card, along with all other important personal documents, in a safe, locked box or safety deposit box.
2. Don’t share your Social Security Number (SSN) unnecessarily. Ask questions: Why do you need it? What happens if I don’t give it to you? Who gets to see it? What are you going to do with it? Legitimate reasons to provide your SSN are limited including: verifying identity for employment; establishing new lines of credit; government benefit programs; and tax purposes.
3. Order your credit reports! Go to www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228 to obtain your free credit reports.
4. Consider investing in a locked mailbox. Additionally, make it a habit to take out-going mail to the post office and stop using your “come steal me” red flag.
5. Take the time to place passwords on all your accounts and change the old ones. This includes bank accounts, investment accounts, money markets, credit cards, etc. Be creative and use something that is not easily guessed by someone who may know you. A good verbal password is NOT the last four digits of your SSN, your mother’s maiden name, your pet’s name or kid’s birthdays. A random word, not associated with you or your life, is highly recommended.
6. Limit the amount of personal information you share online. If you don’t want it publicized – don’t put it online!
7. Be a savvy online shopper! Check out the merchant and make sure they are legit. Protect your information online by using a secure payment agent – a security product which allows a consumer to control the use of their personal identifying information whether shopping, paying bills online, or registering at websites. Install security and malware software to protect your computer and update it frequently.
8. Monitor any and all account statements carefully. Don’t wait three months to balance your check book or open your mail! React quickly if you notice any discrepancies.
9. Guard all checks and deposit slips as you would your precious jewelry. In the wrong hands, these account numbers can be even more valuable than handfuls of cash! When making out checks, use specially formulated gel ink pens, developed to defeat check washing.
10. SHRED ALL PAPERWORK WITH PERSONALLY IDENTIFYING INFORMATION–contact HV Shred for how to make that easy and cost effective