In any economy, it’s a known fact that there are people who do unscrupulous activities to make money illegally by using other’s people identities. Knowing this, you can teach your children some very basic precautions to minimize their risk for having their identity stolen and used against them when they get older.
Here there are…
1. Monitor Your Credit.
Most consumers aren’t even aware that their identities have been stolen…until they go to use their debit cards or other accounts and they are empty or they get a call from a credit card company asking if strange charges are theirs. All of a sudden you realize something is dreadfully wrong and you can spend months or years fixing what the impostor has done to your name, your credit, your buying reputation, etc.
You can request a free credit file disclosure, also known as a credit report, once every 12 months at www.annualcreditreport.com. There are other sites offering free credit scores and reports but quite often they are tied to a monthly charge to monitor your report. You don’t need this! Just get your free report from the website above and pay attention to the details.
2. Don’t give out your personal information without a good reason.
Make sure the person who is requesting personal information from you (name, address, zip, phone, etc.) is a reputable person and the reason they want the information is valid.
3. Be careful with your mail.
Using an unsecure mailbox out in the open is a big no-no when it comes to mailing important documents of any kind. Take mail to an official mailbox if you have to and make sure you collect the mail as quickly as possible each day. Another option is to get a PO Box and pick up your mail every 2 or 3 days.
If you’re going on vacation, put a hold on your mail or have a neighbor or the house-sitter bring it in each day.
4. Watch what goes into your trash!
Thieves who live on stolen identities gather their information from trash, as well as mail, forms they copy in offices and a lot of other sources. Rule of thumb: shred all documents containing numbers!
5. Only give out your social security number when you absolutely have to!
Your Social Security Number is the single, most prized find for identity thieves! Make sure you protect yours.
Banks may need them to start account. Employers need them to make sure you’re legal and your taxes are allocated correctly. However, you know those medical forms you fill out when you have a new doctor or dentist? They ask for your social security number? Don’t give it to them…you don’t have to.
Don’t give it out over the phone (giving the last 4 digits is fine…no one can track anything from the last 4), put it in the mail, etc. Just keep it to yourself.
And your social security card should NOT be in your wallet. If it is, get it out right now and put it in a safe! My financial guy taught me this one!
6. Pay attention to billing cycles of credit cards.
Know when your bills usually arrive (make them paperless if you work on the web effectively) and when your billing cycles land so that you know if something goes missing. Call your credit card companies if a bill doesn’t show up on time or a check you send is lost in the mail. Looking at past statements can help you set up a calendar so you know what arrives when.
7. Be cautious when ordering product on the internet.
When you decide to order a product or service online, look for the symbol (a lock) on the bottom right-hand corner of the browser window you are using. If you don’t see it, call the merchant and place the order over the phone. It’s worth the extra few minutes to make sure your information is safe and secure.
8. Delete your personal information from all old computers you’re not using or sell.
How often do we sell or donate old computers without thinking about what personal information may be on that old useless hard drive? It only takes once in the hands of the wrong person to give donating a bad taste in your mouth.
Get in and delete all information, reformat the hard drive if you can and if all else fails, remove the hard drive (they are cheap now) and have a computer professional help you wipe the drive clean. Again, isn’t it worth a few dollars to hire someone to help you keep your personal financial life safe?
Bottom line, it’s up to you to be diligent with your personal information. Having your identity stolen and used against you is one of the most painful and time-consuming events to recover from. Do whatever you can to prevent it!
Please teach your entire family these common sense steps to protecting their identity!