by Anza Goodbar
(last updated November 22, 2011)
Identity theft is more and more common in our society. There are a myriad of ways for criminals to get a hold of personal information.
One of the easiest ways to protect yourself is to install a solid firewall and security system on your computer. This can prevent hackers from obtaining instant access to your personal computer files. Having good security also means having difficult passwords and changing them frequently.
Avoid phishing emails. These are emails from well-known companies suggesting you click on a link to update your personal information. Credible companies would never ask you to update your information via email. Credible companies' email addresses would end in something associated with their company domain name, not a generic account on aol.com, yahoo.com or gmail.com.
Purchase a personal shredder, they are affordable and can be purchased at a local office supply store. Shred any items that you are discarding rather than putting them in the trash. Anything that has an account number, a social security number or anything confidential should be shredded and not thrown into the trash. Some sources also advise shredding anything with personal information like your home address or phone number.
Be careful when using your credit or debit card in public. Cover the keypad when you enter your pin number. It is impossible to be aware of who may be watching and recording this information. Credit cards used online do not require a signature, and not all sites require the use of a security code.
If you are searching for a job and a company sends you out an application. Do not complete it with personal information and return it via fax or email. Only turn in such documentation in person with a company you are familiar with.
In short, it is easier to prevent identity theft from occurring than to undo any damage done by potential criminals. It is difficult if not impossible to remove fraudulent activity from a credit report when identity theft has occurred. Use common sense when sharing your personal information; insure you know the person you are sharing the information with. Never give out information to sales people on the phone or update information from an email that directs you to a website. Do not leave receipts with your credit card information at a restaurant, hand the signed copy of your receipt back to the waitress before departing.
Take time to prevent an attack on your credit. It may even be worthwhile to subscribe to an identity theft protection company that sends alerts when there is suspicious activity on your accounts.
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