According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, there were 275,284 identity theft complaints made in 2008. This is up 33% from complaints made in 2007. $264.59 million was lost to these criminals in 2008, also up from 2007. By following these tips for protection against identity theft you can significantly decrease the chances you will become a victim.
There are a few important steps you can take right now to protect yourself against identity thieves. Change all your passwords on your credit cards, bank accounts and any other accounts that can be used to steal personal information. A recent identity theft victim had all his personal information stolen because his password was simple. His first name was Steve and his password was Steve12. This is an easy password for an identity thief to guess. The best protection against identity theft is to use passwords that cannot be linked to you. Do not use the maiden name of your mother or your phone number or your social security number. Choose a password that contains both letters and numbers but cannot be linked to you. For example, think of your favorite food and use that with the birth date of your father. Maybe your favorite food is apples and your father was born on the 29th. Your password would be apple29. There is no way a thief could possibly guess this password.
For protection against id theft, make sure all your personal information at home is kept in a secure place. This is especially true if you have roommates, live in a rented complex or have workmen going in and out of your home. Lock boxes and small personal safes are fairly inexpensive and easy to transport if you have to leave home suddenly. Some work with a combination and others require a key.
Away From Home
Contact those who have a record of your personal information and check their security procedures. Your dentist, doctor and CPA can all have personal information that might be beneficial to thieves. Ask how they protect against identity theft. Determine who has access to your records and whether your personal information is shared. Request all your personal information not be shared without your permission. Recently, a news team in Orlando, Florida reported finding personal and confidential patient information in a dumpster behind an office that had recently moved. Only time will tell if thieves have stolen any information.
Refrain from providing information to anyone over the phone, through mail or email and on the Internet unless you are 100% convinced you can share your personal data with the requestor. Remember an identity thief will pretend to be your banker or Credit Card Company. If you are unsure to whom you are speaking to, ask if you can call them back. Then look up the number on a statement, phone book or online. Do not call back using the phone number which the caller or emailer provides. Confirm when you make the call that the company is actually trying to contact you.
When sending out mail with personal information, be sure to bring it to a post office or some other secure mail facility. Do not leave an important letter in your mailbox for the postal worker to pick up. Do not forget to place your mail on hold while you are away. Call the post office at 1-800-275-8777 to stop your mail.
Invest in a shredder. This is a great means of protection against identity theft. Most are affordable and can save you a world of trouble. Shred all personal information before throwing it in the trash. Thieves are not beyond going through garbage looking for receipts, credit applications, bank statements and credit offers.
Do not think it cannot happen to you. Over ½ of all identity thefts occurred from victims between the ages of 30 to 50 and nearly half of these victims were men. It is not just the elderly that fall victim. Everyone is vulnerable, so stay vigilant.