Written by Charlotte Wood (last updated August 18, 2017)
About ten years or so ago, identity theft skyrocketed, putting the people of the world into an information panic. With chuckle-inducing commercials with the teenage girl's voice coming out of an old man and the like, identity theft is shown to be an issue to be taken seriously and one to not be dismissed casually.
In light of the growing frequency of identity theft (no doubt due to the wave of information accessibility combined with fast-moving technology), you have people who range from the paranoid, "I don't want to tell you my name for fear of someone overhearing" to those who can't ever remember where they last put their Social Security card. Both of these extremes probably aren't the best ways to handle the situation, so how do you determine what the right way is? The answer lies in controlling your personal information as much as you possibly can and utilizing wise discretion.
You can't protect yourself by going around as a "no-name," refusing to give out any personal information. You just can't function that way. Yes, your Social Security number is a vital part of your personal information and you should keep it safe, but you still may need to cart it around for jobs or for other reasons. On the other hand, you need to be conscious of what you're putting out there and who is looking at it. Control is the key word when it comes to avoiding identity theft.
When protecting your information and when giving it out to others, offer it on a need-to-know basis. The bank has that information on file and should be able to look that up without you giving out additional info. If the bank, however, needs your Social Security number to actually locate your account, give it out but make sure you know it's really the bank. If the bank calls you, then you don't need to provide information like that. If you call them, you probably will have to give more than just your name for them to help you. Don't have your Social Security number printed on your driver's license, your checks, or any other item that frequently changes hands or is often referenced. (Memorizing your Social Security number is the best way to eliminate the need for toting your card with you.)
When you leave town, make sure you have someone picking up your mail or you have the Post Office hold it for you. You don't want just anyone to be able to come up to your mailbox and access all that information. Make sure you know what's going on with your financial accounts; if there is activity on there you don't know anything about or anything else suspicious, contact your financial institution and see if they can investigate those charges further. Most banks and credit card companies can put a freeze on your account until the activity is resolved. You also need to make sure you know where all your important documents are; that way you'll know if something is missing as opposed to having to tear apart the house and then discovering it's not there.
Identity theft is without a doubt a serious problem and one that needs to be approached with awareness, however you can still live your life and protect your information. If you simply stay in control of your information and know what's going on with your money, following up on any suspicious activity, you should hold up pretty well against identity theft.
Millions of Americans are affected every year by identity theft. The reality is that it has become easier for thieves to ...Discover More
Identity theft is on the rise. It is important to safeguard your personal information.Discover More