According to some pretty alarming statistics, at least 33% of adults in the U.S have experienced identity theft, with another study by Javelin showing that the average loss per victim is $1,100.
When balanced against the cost of paying for an identity theft protection service, then it is worth paying for identity theft protection.
There is no guaranteed way to stop identity theft, and monitoring services only let you know after something has gone wrong. But here are 17 things you can do to prevent identity theft from happening to you or your family.
How to Prevent ID Theft
- Never give out personal information over the phone, unless you are sure who is calling. If it's a company that you have business with, they would already have your name and number on their database. If they call to verify this information, ask them if they can call back later and provide you their ID for the call. They will ask for your number and you can tell them to provide theirs instead. If they don't want to do this, ask them why are they are calling in the first place and request that they remove your number from their list of prospect numbers.
- Don't carry a social security card with you unless absolutely necessary. Social security number is used to open bank accounts, get a job and benefits. If someone has your social security number they can use it to commit identity theft.
- Keep a photocopy of your driver's license or passport and keep it in a safe place at home or with you when you go traveling. If it gets lost, you still have a copy.
- Don't save passwords on your computer or on the internet. Use a password manager app for creating and storing secure passwords. Use letters and numbers that you can remember instead of words so if someone gets into your computer they won`t be able to read them. Change it often for more security, especially if you are using the same password to log into different accounts online.
- Keep your wallet in a safe place, not in your back pocket or somewhere that it can be easily taken from.
- Shred all documents with personal information before you throw them away, including bank receipts, credit card statements and medical bills or prescriptions.
- Use ATM's inside the banks (inside the bank`s building) instead of using the ATM's by the stores.
- Use a lock box for your mail that is delivered to you, instead of having it just drop off at your door.
- Cancel any subscriptions that you are not using or will not use in the future with information about yourself as part of the payment process (phone books, magazines, etc.).
- Don't post personal information on the internet, especially your birth date.
- Keep a list of all credit cards and their phone numbers in case you lose them or they get stolen and report it to your bank immediately. Unfortunately there are many ways that people steal money by fooling banks into giving them the money from someone else's account.
- If you get a new credit card, check your statements from the previous months to see if there are any transactions that were made without your approval. Report them as soon as possible so they won't be charged off on you and it will also prohibit anyone from taking money out of your account in the future by using a card you don't have. Credit card companies will investigate each person who is trying to open an account with a credit card, it can take months but if they are legitimate they will get your card and if not then the bank can close the account right away or at least stop that person from using it in the future.
- When shopping online, try to buy from sites you are familiar with and prefer not to give out your credit card information unless it's necessary. You can also use PayPal when making online purchases because their system is very secure and they will make sure that the account belongs to you before allowing a transaction.
- Delete partial credit card numbers when writing down your credit card information. Sometimes when writing down a credit card number you will have to write the beginning of it and then maybe the last 4 numbers, but deleting the middle is important in case someone gets your notes or bills and can still use that information.
- Close old accounts if they aren't being used anymore because people with bad intentions could gain access to them and use them to make purchases.
- Always check the website's SSL certificate (that the site is using https://) before making online payments or entering personal information on a new site because sometimes fraudsters will create sites that are very well made, it looks like a site you want to visit but the only thing is that they will enter your information on their server instead of the legitimate one.
- Don't open or click on link in phising emails. If you are not sure about the legitimacy of an email asking for personal information or money, contact the company directly, there is no reason why someone would be sending you an email about a transaction that you did not make unless they are trying to dupe you.