Avoiding Identity Theft

Through the previous two articles What Is Identity Theft and Identity Theft you should have gained an idea of what identity theft is and the problems it can cause. This article will look at some of the ways you can protect yourself.

The identity thief is smart and patient. They tend to look for an opportunity and even play on peoples fears. You need to be smarter and always stay aware. Here are some of the more common ways you may become a victim.

  • "Your computer may have a potential virus I will help you search for it and destroy it."   Have you had this phone call before? It doesn't matter who the caller is unless you called them and are certain of their identity then don't give them any information from your computer. You would know if your computer is not running right. If you have a problem or questions visit your local computer repair center.
  • Your garbage. I'll bet there is a lot of personal information in your trash. ie:  receipts with your credit card information on it, old bank statements, expired credit or bank cards, old tax papers, insurance papers, etc. A thief is not above rummaging through your garbage can in the middle of the night if they think they can learn something personal about you that they can exploit. 
  • Public computers. Computers hold all sorts of personal information. If you use a public computer then your should be extra cautious about imputing personal data. Computers hold information in caches for an indefinite period of time and may save information to autofill forms, etc.
  • Electronic waste. Your old cell phone, computer, memory stick, PDA's all store vital information about you and often your contacts. Before you throw out or recycle your IT equipment make sure and delete all your data.
  • Theft. Don't underestimate the dangers of the traditional snatch and run. If someone does steal your purse or wallet with your credit cards, health care information and banking information make sure you know who to call and act fast.
  • Social networks are notorious for tricksters. Never give out personal information to someone who wants to 'be your friend'. When you join social networks you should also be cautious about how much profile information you give out. A thief can glean personal information about you from your profiles on different websites until he has the full picture.
  • Passwords and PIN numbers. It goes without saying - never give them out. Protect these and change your passwords once in a while.
  • Only give out as much information as you have to. This especially applies to your government number (social security, social insurance, etc.) Never use your SS or SIN number for identification or credit card applications. The only people who need your number are your employer (after you get the job)  and accountant to file your tax returns, claim benefits, etc.
These are only some of the ways your identity is at risk. Keep them in mind.

The thought of someone stealing your identity is scary but you can't let fear run your life. Carry on but everytime you do something that involves personal information ask yourself, 'who is watching and what could they possibly learn?' After a while you will find  yourself doing things automatically (shredding papers, etc.) to protect yourself.

If you want more information here is a good ebook and step by step protection plan.