6 Ways to Protect Your Identity From Criminals
Identity theft is increasingly common, and there is still no guaranteed method for preventing identity theft. However, you can do several things to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft. Here are a few tips to protect your identity.
- Protect Your Social Security Number (SSN). Don’t carry your Social Security Card or anything with your Social Security number. Also, never put your Social Security number on your checks. You must protect this number because thieves can use it in many ways. They can open financial accounts or file for unemployment benefits with it. They may even use your SSN to obtain a tax refund or claim Social Security benefits, which could prevent you from receiving them. In some cases, criminals will give someone else’s Social Security number if they are involved in a crime, which could leave you with a criminal record.
- Avoid Giving Out Personal Information. We’ve already discussed why you should be careful with your Social Security number, but thieves can also use other information. Your driver’s license, cell phone number, even your home address can be valuable personal information. For instance, an identity thief could use your cell phone number to contact your phone provider and pretend to be you. Then, they could route your number to their phone, then access your email. From there, they could likely access many of your accounts and damage your identity further.
- Watch Your Mail. People are often so worried about digital identity theft that they forget thieves can also target their home mailbox. They can obtain information from checks, credit card offers, bank statements, and other items from your mail. Remember to collect your mail quickly, and mail items from the post office or another location you believe is safe.
- Examine Your Credit Card Statements. Carefully look over your credit card statements to ensure you recognize all transactions; if you find anything you don’t recognize, promptly contact the bank. Also, if you have credit cards you either rarely or don’t use, you may want to consider closing the accounts.
- Check Your Credit Report. You should check your credit report yearly because the first copy is free. Reviewing the information will warn you of any suspicious activity, allowing you to address identity theft immediately.
- Run a Self-Background Check. Checking your credit report will let you know if identity thieves have used your information to open accounts in your name, but nothing about criminal activities affiliated with your identity. It’s a good idea to periodically run self-background checks to see if anyone has used your identity for illicit purposes. Routinely reviewing will allow you to clear up any problems you find before applying for a job or doing anything else that requires a background check.
You can do many things to protect yourself from identity theft, and these tips will help you stay a step ahead of the thieves.
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