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How to Protect Your Identity

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Thanks to the Target data breach, many of us may be worried about who has our information and what they’re going to do with it. Here are a few ways we can protect ourselves against identity theft.

Instances of ID theft actually went down after the crash of 08 because credit was so hard to come by. Now that the economy is making a turn around and restrictions on credit are a little looser, cases of ID theft are now back on the rise. My number was compromised in the hack and so was Glen’s so now we’re doing all we can to keep the bad guys out of our bank account. Here are a few ways that we can all better protect ourselves.

Buy a Shredder

If you get credit applications every day like I do, tearing them in half and throwing them in the trash is the worst thing you can do. You may as well just leave them in tact and hand them to a stranger. Or, buy a shredder. Every time you get an unwanted credit card application, shred it to bits. Old credit card receipts? Shred them to bits. Medical statements, dental statements, bank statements. All of it. Shred it to bits. A shredder is one of the most handy house hold appliance there is. The cross cut shredders are awesome and some brands even have a special area to shred plastic like CDs and old credit cards. When your bag gets full, don’t just put it out at the curb for recycling. Save your empty paper towel tubes. When you’re planning on having a bon fire, stuff the old tubes with your shredded papers, top it with kindling and set it on fire. At least that’s what I do.


Watch Your Mail

Speaking of credit card applications, it’s important to always contact your creditors directly and let them know you’re moving and make sure you give them your new, full and correct address. Many times, pre-paid business class mail doesn’t get forwarded, so be sure you let your credit card companies know you’re moving. And when you go to pay your bill, don’t stick it in an outside mailbox for your letter carrier (or mail thief) to find. If you’re sending a payment via check, put it in a secure, locked mail box, or better yet, have automatic bill pay so you don’t have to worry about sending checks through the mail.


Monitor Your Credit

Did you know that there is a federal law that states all consumers have the right to view their credit report for free once per year? It’s true. Once per year, you can go into your bank and ask them to run your credit. It may look like a lot of gobbledygook when you first see it, so if you don’t understand how to read it, ask a banker. They’d be happy to go over it with you. If you see something on there that shouldn’t be there like a line of credit you never applied for or credit cards you don’t possess, you’re also allowed to dispute it. It’s a pain, but it’s worth it. You can also pay for a credit monitoring service or use an app like Credit Karma that pings you every time there’s something that shows up on your credit report. Just be careful though. Every time your credit is run, it lowers your score, so don’t get too carried away. Also, limit the number of cards you have. The fewer the better. It’s easier to keep track that way.


Protect Your Number

Protect your social security number with your life. Your social security number is your life line for taxes, your passport, job applications, credit applications, mortgage applications and car loan applications. If someone gets a hold of that, they can do a lot of damage. If you have your social security card in your wallet right now, take it out when you get home and put it in a fire proof save and lock the door. If you get an email or a phone call from someone asking for your social security number, hang up or delete the email. It’s a scam. Only give out your number when it’s absolutely necessary. “There is no law prohibiting a business from asking for your Social Security number, but people don’t know they can say no,” says Carolyn Cheezum of the Social Security Administration. “We recommend that you ask if they’ll accept an alternative piece of identification. If they don’t, flat-out refuse to do business with them.”


Online’s Just Fine…Kind Of

Yes, online shopping can be easy, but it can be dangerous if we’re not careful. I am a huge fan of online shopping. If certain websites sold groceries, I would never have to leave the house, but when shopping online, there are a few things to look out for. For example, when you’re at the checkout section, look and see if there’s a “Trust-e” or “Veri-Sign” symbol at the bottom, and also look at the last time the security was updated. That will also be at the bottom of the page. If it hasn’t been updated in the last 12 to 24 hours, cancel your purchase prior to entering your credit card number. Also, only shop via secure server. How can you tell if you’re on a secure server? Look in your browser bar (that’s the space where you enter in the website). If you go to a website to shop and it says http:// you’re not on a secure server and you should close out of the page. For example:

 

 

If it says https:// you’re on a secure server and it’s OK to continue shopping. Like this:

 

 

Also, make sure the website has a clear privacy policy so you know how they will protect your information (or not).

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