How to Save Yourself From Identity Theft

What is identify theft?

Identity theft or impersonation can be categorized under fraud.  In case of identity theft, one person/entity pretends to be another person/entity for personal gain.  The victim usually suffers financial loss.  In some cases the victim will have to bear the consequences of any illegal activities of the culprit.  

Safety tips:

  • Watch what you throw into the dust bin:  Fraudsters generally look out of information in dust bins.  Be it office or home, make sure that you shred documents which may contain your personal information like bank account number, passwords, etc.

  • Erase information from your hard drive before disposing it:  Before disposing your old computer, make sure that you have erased all your personal data in your hard drive.  If you have stored your personal information in CD or DVD, do not just dispose them.  Make sure they are destroyed.  

  • Keep your bank informed about any theft:  If your purse or handbag containing your credit or debit card is stolen, inform your bank immediately and block them.  Cancel credit cards which you would have stopped using.

  • Keep your wallet light:  Avoid carrying around slips with information like your pin number or password in your wallet.  Ideally a wallet should have cash and one credit card.

  • Watch out for those curious eyes:  Avoid making any banking transaction on a public computer (Internet cafe, etc).  Even while you are making any transaction at the office or using your laptop at a public place, make sure that you are seated in such a way that the screen is not visible to others.  While you visit an ATM, do not do key in your pin number when some one would be watching over your shoulder.  Criminals have very sharp minds!.  

  • Beware of telemarketing calls:  Avoid giving sensitive information like bank account, password etc to any one over the phone.  

  • Phishing:  If you receive request for personal information on your email address, do not respond.  Perpetrators of identity theft make it appear as if the mail is coming from your bank or from some federal agency.  

  • Protect you computer:  Install a security suite on your computer and make sure that it is updated.  You can go for reputed brands like AVG, McAfee or Symantec.  Receive updates from Windows.

  • Use strong passwords:  It is always safe to have a lengthy passwords with combination of letters, numbers and symbols.  

  • Social networking sites:  Do not reveal information like your credit card number, social security number, license number etc in social networking sites like twitter, facebook, etc.  

  • Inform concerned entities about any death:  Identity thieves find it easy to impersonate a dead person.  If there is any death in the family, inform the concerned organizations.

  • Take care of your checks:  Avoid dropping utility bill payment checks in unauthorized drop boxes.  Never drop checks in unlocked boxes.  Avoid writing your phone number on the check.  

  • Keep in touch with your bank:  Call up your bank periodically to check if there are any transactions in your accounts which you may not be aware of.  Go through your credit card statements.

  • Insure yourself against identity theft:  Many insurance companies offer insurance for losses incurred due to identity theft.  It is a very good idea to be insured against identity theft.  

In the year 2003, a survey indicated that 10 million people were affected by identity theft.  Fortunately it has decreased over the last 5 years.  Implementing the above tips will go a long way in saving you from becoming victims of identity theft.  It is always better to be safe than sorry.  

Image via Wikipedia