Identity theft is a lot greater a problem than you might believe! According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, up to 7% of people over the age of 16 were victims of identity theft in 2014 alone. While few of these victims lost more than $100, that’s still a staggering number of people losing money.
Don’t let that be you! Protecting yourself from identity theft isn’t as hard as you might think. While you may not be able to stop the world’s most determined hackers from cracking your private information, the truth is that most identity theft is very low-tech. Here are a few easy ways to prevent identity theft:
Lock up hard copies – If you have printed copies of your financial information, bank records, social security and identity documents, and anything else that is “sensitive”, lock it up in a safe place. These printed copies are one of your greatest vulnerabilities. If someone breaks into your house, they can make off with these documents and use them to steal your identity. NEVER keep important information (PIN Number, SS Number, etc.) in your wallet, but memorize any important numbers.
Shred like a boss – You may occasionally need to print out sensitive documents, but there’s no reason you need to KEEP them. Buy yourself a shredder and use it regularly. You can always burn important documents, but a shredder is easier and less messy. You never know who could end up rooting through your trash and finding a gold mine of important legal information because you threw documents away instead of shredding them.
Lock your devices – Always have a passcode on your phone and tablet, and a password on your computer. You never know who will sit down while you’re in the bathroom or at the counter ordering a drink. If your bag gets stolen, a password will at least prevent the thief from accessing your information.
Watch your email usage – Only open emails you trust. If you don’t recognize the name or the email address, NEVER open links. If you get emails from your bank or credit card company, call to find out the information. Avoid opening any link you’re not 100% certain you can trust.