Tips to Avoid Identity Theft


Protect your sensitive information to avoid being a victim...

Identity thieves use information about you to fraudulently obtain money, goods, and services under your name. The more information they have about you, the better able they are to convince customer service representatives of banks and other commercial organizations that they are who they say they are (you), and the more convincingly they are able to fill out loan applications and other documents.

It is therefore essential that you prevent sensitive information about you and your affairs from falling into the wrong hands. Here are a few ways to protect your information:

  • Do not post key details about yourself on the internet, such your social security number, date of birth, or your current or past addresses.
  • Invest in a document shredder. Before putting them out on the curb with the rest of your recycling and trash, shred any documents that contain financial account numbers, your date of birth, your social security number, or your signature.
  • Keep your digital data safe by not getting infected by viruses or other malware. The best way to do this is to use a secure operating system like Mac OSX or Linux. If you need to use Microsoft Windows, you should make sure it it locked down tight with good anti-virus software and high security settings. Of course, the best line of defense is your own behavior: don't open untrusted email attachments, be careful what internet links you click on and what sites you visit, only download and install software from trusted sources, and if possible always access the internet from behind a hardware firewall such as a wireless router.
  • If you back up your data to other places on the internet, for example to "cloud"-based backup services, try to make sure your data is in encrypted form before it is uploaded.
  • Make sure your laptop or other portable data-storage devices don't get lost or stolen. If possible, try to have the data encrypted with a strong password.
  • Never provide sensitive data in response to unsolicited calls or emails. Legitimate financial institutions and other commercial entities will never call and solicit your information in such a manner.
  • Periodically check your credit report to detect any unauthorized activity.
  • Use a different password for your banking and other important web accounts then you do for other less important accounts, such as discussion forums, social websites, and FTP accounts that you use to transfer files on the internet.

Your personal data are the keys to your estate - protect it with the same diligence as you would your house keys or wallet. By being careful with your data, you can minimize the odds of being a victim.

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