Basic Tips to Protect Your Identity
We all have the best intentions when it comes to safeguarding our personal information from identity thieves. Securing important documents and regular shredding may be at the top of our to-do lists. Then work, family—in short, life—get in the way.
We get it, so we’ve made it easy. Just follow these four simple steps to reduce your risk immediately:
- Shred it. Identity thieves love recycling your trash, but you can break their hearts by buying a quality crosscut shredder. Shred everything with your name and address, such as statements and invoices, receipts, return address stickers, envelopes, catalogs and—especially—pre-approved credit offers, credit card checks and insurance-related materials.
- Guard it. Encrypt emails and computer files that contain personal or account information. Use firewalls, antivirus and anti-spyware programs. Protect your smartphone as you would a computer. Keep all your technology current with the latest security updates. Always employ “strong” passwords that contain numbers, symbols and characters. Don’t use obvious passwords, such as your date of birth, child’s or pet’s name or mother’s maiden name. Change passwords often, and don’t use the same one for online banking that you use for shopping or social networking sites.
- Lock it up. Keep doors and drawers secure. Identity thieves can’t steal your information if they can’t get to it. Keep computers, paper files such as bank or credit card statements, passports, earnings statements, birth certificates and any other documents with personal identifying information behind closed—and locked—doors or in locked drawers. Always be aware of who has access, such as household employees or work crews—and even family members.
- Keep any government-issued identification number to yourself. It takes surprisingly little to set up fraudulent accounts and establish false credit in someone else’s name—sometimes only an identification number and address will do. never give out these numbers to anyone you don’t know and trust.