Erin Arvedlund of Philly.com reports that according to the US Department of Justice, 11.5 million victims suffer from identity theft annually, with losses averaging $4,900. Below is a compiled list of practices that you should implement in order to keep your financial information under lock and key, and ultimately help you and your family members avoid becoming victims:
1. Garbage and Mail: Criminals are not ashamed to dig through your trash. Use a shredder before disposing of any credit offers, bills, checks and statements, receipts, credit applications and insurance documents. If you don’t have a shredder, finely ripping mail will suffice. Also, if you are planning on being away from home, have a trusted family member collect your mail daily, notify your local US Postal Service and have them keep your mail in their facility until you return, or install a mailbox that locks.
2. Preapproved Credit Cards: This practice also ties into guarding your mail and trash. Preapproved credit applications or credit cards may flood your mailbox, and it’s simple for a criminal to grab a hold of this information and open a credit card in your name. You have the ability to opt out of these offers! Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).
3. Run your Credit Report: National consumer-reporting companies, including Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, are required by The Fair Credit Reporting Act to allow you to run your credit report annually for FREE. It will pay off in the long run for you to utilize this service, especially if you’ve been a victim. Most people don’t know until it’s too late. It’s best to take a proactive approach!
4. Important Documents: Keep your social security card/number, birth certificate, passports, banking information and documents, etc. in a guarded place. Hidden lock boxes work great (especially if you’re living with roommates) and a safety deposit box is also a relatively cheap option.
5. Passwords: Assuming most of us use the same passwords for almost everything, think about changing them up. Typical passwords consist of birthdays, telephone numbers, mother’s maiden name, etc. Make note to change your passwords regularly to avoid compromising your financial information.