While I would say one of the top ways of avoiding having your identity stolen would be to stop sending snail mail, the U.S. Postal Service has ironically sent out a letter to everyone about identity theft. They say they have partnered with the Federal Trade Commission in spreading the news about the new FTC program to stop identity theft called “Deter-Detect-Defend“. So what do they have to say about how to avoid having your identity stolen?
- Shred financial documents. – Check, do this weekly.
- Protect your Social Security number by not carrying it around of giving it out. – Check, we put ours in our safe.
- Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the internet. – Check.
- Never click on links in unsolicited emails. – Took me a while, but finally got my mom to understand that eBay & PayPal were not closing her accounts.
- Don’t use obvious passwords like your birth date or your mother’s maiden name. – I can’t remember my passwords, so they must not be too obvious!
- Keep your personal information in a secure place in your home. – That’s where our safe comes in handy.
- Pay attention to bills that don’t arrive, unexpected credit card statements, or calls about purchases you did not make. – People still get paper bills?
- Inspect your credit report. – We get ours 3 times a year, once every 4 months. And be sure to get yours from www.annualcreditreport.com, as it is the only “real” place to get them for free.
Having your identity stolen is a pain in the you-know-what. I mentioned before about a friend who had his stolen, and it was a nightmare. Then his wife had hers stolen and the thief opened up 4 cell phone accounts with her information…leading to over $2,000 in Verizon Wireless bills. For more info, check out the FTC site on identity theft.