Identity theft continues to be a growing problem, as apparent through recent news about security breaches at Equifax, major retailers and service providers like Yahoo. Protecting yourself against identity theft must be a priority nowadays. Here are a few things that you can do to minimize your risk for identity theft.
Protect Your Social Security Number
Your social security number is the biggest target when it comes to identity theft. Keep your information secure but implementing some best practices. First and foremost, never carry your social security card in your wallet. Secondly, avoiding giving out your social security number unless absolutely necessary. For instance, an old practice was to write that number on checks. You should never do so nowadays. Lastly, avoid providing that and other personal information to unsolicited callers. Most of the time, those calls are from scammers trying to trick you.
Shred Personal Documents
Although many companies have adopted the practice of leaving out full account numbers from statements and receipts, many still include this information. When it comes to trashing bank statements, credit card statements, purchase receipts, etc., check whether they list your account number or other personal information. If so, be sure to shred these documents. This is critical to protecting yourself against identity theft as someone could simply look through your trash to steal your identity.
Use Credit Rather than Debit
If you have a card linked to your checking account, that can typically be used as a debit or credit card. Debit card transactions require entering of your 4-digit PIN. Access to the card number and PIN can allow someone to make ATM cash withdrawals from your account. Therefore, it’s best to use cards for credit transactions. Additionally, credit transactions have a different consumer protection agreement, which may make it easier for you to dispute a charge.
Monitor Your Credit Report
Your credit report is a great way to monitor credit activity related to your social security number. Sign up for a free account at CreditKarma.com for detailed information on past and current activity. Additionally, you will be alerted when your credit score is pulled, new accounts are created, or balances dramatically change on existing accounts. It’s a great way to stay up to date and to catch suspicious activity early.
Summary of Protecting Yourself Against Identity Theft
Protecting yourself against identity theft requires a few different approaches. First, you must keep your information secure by not carrying your social security number with you or giving it out too freely. Shredding documents with account or other personal information is also a must. Learn what protections are available to you under the different credit and debit cards that you hold. Lastly, stay on top of your credit score and profile by monitoring it regularly and signing up for alerts. By being proactive, you will minimize your risk of identity theft.