According to Javelin Strategy and Research, identity fraud happens every three seconds. With just five minutes of your time, you can safeguard your details and that of your family.
While the tips below might seem almost too simple, they’re important first steps to take in helping to ensure that your personal, private information remains just that: private. In just five minutes, you can do any of the following to make it harder for identity thieves to steal your money or your good name.
- Check the contents of your wallet or purse. Do you carry your Social Security card with you? What about your passport? You don’t need to have this sensitive information on you. Keep your Social Security card, passport, voter’s registration card, and any non-essential forms of identification in a safe and secure place.
- Check your mailbox. If you have a mailbox that has a red semaphore flag (yes, that’s what it’s actually called), you should be sure to get your mail from it every day, as soon as possible. The longer you leave your mail in the open, the greater the opportunity for it to be stolen. If you are missing any important regular correspondence like your bank statement or credit card statement, call your bank or card issuer immediately. That could mean that your bill was intercepted by a thief and it’s possible for that information to be used to steal your identity. Also, consider using a post office collection box for important outgoing mail like bill payments. The flag up is an indicator not only to the mail carrier but also to any identity thieves in the area. If thieves are willing to go through the garbage in order to find information to steal (a technique known as dumpster diving), what’s to stop them from taking your mail?
- Invest in a shredder. Think of this not so much as an expense as it is an investment. Instead of simply throwing away sensitive documents and pre-approved offers on credit cards you don’t want, shred them. By running these forms through a cross cut paper shredder you’ll be making it much more difficult — if nearly impossible — for thieves to piece together what they need in order to steal your money or your identity. A basic shredder might be cheaper, but a cross cut paper shredder offers better protection due to the way in which your important (but no longer needed) documents are securely disposed of.
- Opt out of information you don’t want to receive. On the subject of pre-approved credit card offers, did you know that you can opt out of receiving these solicitations in the mail? You can also opt out of mailing lists and you can register to reduce the number of telephone solicitations you get. The opt out of pre-screened credit card offers, you can call OptOut toll-free at 1-888-567-8688 or visit them online. To remove your name from national direct mail lists or email lists, you can contact the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). Finally, to limit the number of telemarketing calls you receive, you can register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry.
- Get your free credit report. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) you’re entitled to a free credit report from the three major credit bureaus (Experian®, Equifax®, and TransUnion®) every twelve months. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to become informed. Review your credit report for any negative items and let the credit bureaus know of any discrepancies.
Note: You should also make sure that you don’t have your Social Security number, debit card PIN, or your spouse’s Social Security number written on a slip of paper, either. If you do, shred it or keep it locked up and secure.
Note: Opting out of receiving pre-approved credit card offers will not affect your credit score in any way.