protecting your identity

10 07 2008

I recently read where 15 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2006. I am sure that number has only gone up in recent years. On average people have to spend two weeks of their time and about $3200 to get their money back and restore their credit history. Two weeks may not sound like that long…if you are at the beach. But if you are on the phone dealing with Credit Agencies, and writing letters to your bank, I am sure it would seem like an eternity. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center there are 5 things that we all can do protect ourselves from becoming the next victim.

  • Lock your mailbox – sounds a bit overboard, but all it takes if for one thief to take your bank or credit card statement and start using your funds to make you a believer.
  • Encrypt your Documents – Laptops are frequent targets for theft at coffee shops and other public areas. Many times we have personal and financial information on there If someone nabs it, you will definitely want your hard drive to be unreadable to it’s new owner.
  • Be Careful at Work- I was surprised to learn that 50% of identity theft happens at the work place. Make sure you never leave your SS# or laying around on an application or direct deposit form. Try to keep that information between you and HR.
  • Lookout for Phone Scams – Never give out sensitive info to an unknown caller. Especially if they say they are your bank, Credit Card Company or government agency. If it is really that important, go in and speak in person.
  • Change your Passwords- Hackers can crack simple passwords in their sleep. Never use a single word of phrase. Avoid obvious dates as well. The best thing to do is to make your password 8 characters at minimum, and use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.