Identity theft is increasingly a concern for families. With hackers tapping into major businesses’ credit card information, and credit card companies issuing offers to your toddler, you never know where or how your information can fall into the wrong hands. But here are some ways to protect your family from identity theft.
1. Consider purchasing a shredder – then use it. All those airline credit card offers, those offers for your toddler, old bank statements… don’t just throw them away. Shred them. A large part of all identity theft, a whopping 88% according to shredexonline.com, comes from raiding the victim’s trash.
2. Consider using difficult to crack passwords and change them often. Is your password 1234? 1111? 6969? ABC123? Your child’s name, dog’s name, or the name of your grandchild? If so, consider a change immediately.
3. Do you use the same passwords for everything from Amazon to email to your bank account? Experts recommend changing your passwords often, never repeating an old password, and using lots of symbols. If you have a difficult time remembering, consider using the first initials of a favorite song or phrase, and then $ubstituting s¥µbø1s as seen here. Also be sure to include numbers as well as a variety of upper and lower case words.
4. Guard your social security number. Memorize the number and keep the card in a safe place – not in your wallet, nor in your car. Be aware that you don’t need to give your social security number as an ID if you don’t want to – there are alternatives for businesses and medical offices who simply want to have an easy way to identify you. While banks and employers have security in place to keep that information secure, you never know how secure other institutions will be.
5. Many experts recommend keeping copies of passports or digital photos of important documents on your computer, a flash drive or the cloud. Do so at your own risk – laptops can be easily stolen. If you feel you simply must store that kind of data on your computer, consider encrypting the file and/or labeling it something exceedingly boring – “Term Paper,” for example.
6. Consider checking your credit scores. You may find credit cards opened in your name that you aren’t aware of. If so, you can look into the matter and have authorities take care of it. Keep in mind that if your child receives credit card offers, it’s possible his or her identity has or could be stolen.
7. Guard your pin when shopping with your ATM card.
8. Consider avoiding overuse of ATM cards. Yes, they’re convenient. They’re also easily hacked, as proved in last year’s Target hacking.
9. Avoid clicking on links included in emails, especially if the URL is different from the one you expect. Likewise, if you receive an email or a phone call from someone requesting sensitive information, don’t give it out. Only give out information when you yourself initiated the contact and you can verify that you’re speaking to the person you intended to speak with.
10. Consider enrolling with a credit monitoring service. They will notify you and your family if they believe there has been a breach.
Identity theft can cause financial problems, ruin your credit score, and take up a lot of your time and energy. Taking a little security can prevent a lot of hassles and heartache.