Top 10 Identity Theft Prevention Tips & More

Identity theft prevention is worth a pound of identity theft cure. It’s just good sense to know a few key basics that can help protect you from having your financial life brought to ruin overnight. An identity thief can wrongfully use your personal information to take out a loan, write a check, charge a purchase, or even impersonate you. If this happens, not only will your identity be stolen, your reputation and your credit can suffer serious harm.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are up to ten million identity theft victims a year nowadays. So, before you are faced with trying to undo all the havoc that a clever thief can wreak on your finances and personal life, adopt some clever, con-man-outsmarting, identity theft prevention strategies like those outlined below.

How to Prevent Identity Theft from Happening to You?

In this era of the information explosion, everyone is exposed to identity theft fraud. Our personal data is displayed on many public websites and we can become exposed through businesses with whom we have made transactions or even by our personal contacts or our jobs. In order to avoid becoming a stolen identity victim, you will need to put some identity theft protection into practice. Here are ten top identity theft prevention tips:

  1. Credit Reporting Agencies – Your credit report will often be your first heads up that someone is trying to use your data illegally. You are entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. You can access this report by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
  2. Credit Monitoring Services – There are many good credit monitoring services available that will watch your credit reports and ratings and alert you if there are any red flags. Very often these services are offered through the credit bureaus at a premium.
  3. Purchase a Good Paper Shredder – All personal documents that pass through your hands should be shredded with a good paper shredder—diamond-cut is the best—before they go in the trash. Identity thieves are famous for dumpster diving, so shredding any printed material that has your personal information on it is an absolute must.
  4. Use Caution at ATM’s and Gas Pumps – Thieves have clandestine ways of obtaining your debit card pin number while you key it into an ATM or gas pump keypad. It’s best to use extreme caution at ATMs. If you use a debit card to pay for your gas, always go inside to pay, don’t use the credit card swipe station at the pump.
  5. Get a Post Office Box or Locked Mailbox – Identity theft prevention often is as simple as making it harder for crooks to get to your mail. Remember, your new credit and debit cards as well as personal and financial documents all come through the mail.
  6. Passwords – Make sure that your passwords to all bank accounts, online shopping accounts, and other places where you have given personally sensitive data are stored in a safe place—never directly on your hard drive or kept in your wallet. Use passwords that are hard to guess, never use your birthday, children’s names, or your mother’s maiden name.
  7. Monitor Bank Transactions – You should keep track of all your bank transactions regularly. It is very simple and easy to manage your bank accounts from a home computer and check your bank transactions weekly or even daily. Many banks will even send you an alert if your account falls below a minimum amount.
  8. Opt-Out of Promotional Offers – Opting out of promotional offers keeps your sensitive personal information from entering the mail in the first place. You can opt-out of promotional offers by writing to:

    Direct Marketing Association
    Mail Preference Service
    P. O. Box 9008
    Farmingdale, NY 11735

    Or by calling:
    888-5OPTOUT

  9. Anti-Virus and Firewall Software – Using a good anti-virus and firewall software on your computer helps keep your private and financial information safe. Back in the day, you would have to buy two separate programs to do this, but now, you can do with just one. Some good choices are: Kaspersky, ESET, and Norton – look for software that has both the Anti-Virus and Firewall in one.
  10. Checking Account Precautions – Don’t put any bills that you pay by check in your home mailbox – hoping that no one will steal them out of your mailbox while you’re out at work is a huge gamble. If possible, set up online banking with a bill-pay option to have your bill payments mailed straight from your bank to the recipient’s door. Additionally, when you order your bank checks have them delivered to your bank, not to your home – thieves wait for an opportunity to snatch up some blank checks.

ID theft can be a terrible violation of your privacy and, should you become its victim, credit restoration can become a hugely time-consuming effort. But, if you exercise care with your personal and financial data by practicing identity theft prevention techniques, you’ll thwart identity thieves and keep your exclusive information private – and safe.

I know that these steps to prevent identity theft will come in handy. What other ideas would you recommend to prevent identity theft?