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50 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Identity from Thieves

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There are many things that you can do to help protect your financial assets from identity thieves. You don’t want the wealth that you’ve built up over many years to be destroyed, and you don’t want your credit score destroyed by money-craving thieves who want to make their own lives better, without doing an honest-day’s work, and at your expense. So, it’s important to learn how to better protect yourself, both offline and online, to prevent this from happening.

Why do people commit these identity theft crimes, as well as other types of crime? If you want to learn more about that, then you should read our article: “Urban Crime: Causes and Solutions.” If you want to learn how to better protect yourself, both offline and online, from identity theft crime, then check out these tips below.

Protect Your Personal Information:

1. Protect your Social Security Number (SSN). Don’t just give it out there! There are times when people will ask you for your social security number, in which case, you should probably ask a few relevant questions. This includes “Why do you need my number?” “How will you be using my social security number?” “How do you protect my SSN from identity thieves?” “Can you finish this process without needing my number?” and “Is there another way to finish this process without me sharing my number?” Ask all of these relevant questions every time someone asks for your social security number, and you can better protect yourself. Of course, there are many times businesses need to use your SSN to check your credit, for tax purposes, for renting a flat, etc.

2. Be careful who you share your personal information with. Whether you are at a doctor’s office, at work, some business office, your child’s school, or some other place, always ask why they need that information, and see if there is a way to get around giving up that info before giving it away.

3. Keep your personal information at home, and only carry with you those documents that you need regularly, such as your driver’s license. If you need some other document, such as a Medicare card, you should leave them at home except when you need to use them.

4. Keep your information secure and protected from roommates, visiting family, friends, and coworkers. You never know if someone you know, even if they act innocent and honest, might actually be an identity thief.

5. Put your financial documents and records in a safe place that’s protected from thieves that could break into your home. A secret location is good for helping to protect those documents, but having a safe would be even better.

6. Make sure to get a shredder and destroy any documents that might have personal information on it, that is, if you are not planning on putting it away in a file somewhere. This includes bank statements, receipts, credit applications, credit card statements, and so forth. Actually, this includes the label on your prescription containers as well.

7. Don’t put your outgoing mail in your mailbox; instead, take them to a post office or put them in a post office collection box. By doing so, you keep potential thieves from being able to rummage through your mail for pertinent pieces of information.

8. Put a vacation hold on your mail if travelling. If you are going on vacation, or are not going to be home for several days, you don’t want to have your incoming mail building up and staying in your mailbox for several days. Like above, by doing so, you increase the chances that potential thieves can rummage through your mail and find information you don’t want to give.

9. Don’t give out personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the phone call. If you get a call from someone claiming to be from an institution with which you do business, tell them you will call them back from the number you have for them and will give the information them. This seems like a hassle, but this is one scheme that identity thieves use to steal personal information. Other scams include one where the person claims that you missed jury duty, and another where they claim need to “confirm” some personal information for some reason or other – don’t become a victim of these scams. Remember the movie Identity Thief from a couple years ago? This is exactly how Paul Rudd’s character got his personal info stolen. Don’t be the next victim!

10. Clean out your computer's hard drive before selling it. If you are getting rid of your computer, or selling it, always make sure to clean the hard drive! Get some software that can clean your hard drive, wiping it clean of everything personal, before you get rid of it. You don’t realize how many times identity thieves got personal information from a computer someone got rid of who forgot to clear out the data on the hard drive. Read our article, "Disposing of Your Old Computer," to learn how the four steps you need to take to properly get rid of your old computer without identity thieves being able to get personal information from you. You will also want to read our article, "Things to Save Before Wiping the Data off of your Old Computer’s Hard Drive," in conjunction with the other article.

11. Make sure to clear out personal information that you may have on your mobile phone also. To learn more about how to properly clear out your cell phone before getting rid of it, you may want to read our article, "How to Safely Dispose of Your Mobile Device." Besides that, you should remove your personal SIM card as well.


Banking and Credit:

12. Have the post office hold your new checkbooks you ordered for pick up. It is cheaper, and saves you money when you order your checks online, than if you get them directly through your bank. But, when you do, do a "hold for pick up." By having them delivered directly to your home, you increase your chances that they may be stolen by identity thieves. Bloomp.net would recommend two websites, Checks Unlimited and 4Checks, for getting your new secure personal checks.

13. You can stop prescreened credit card and insurance offers, as well as unsolicited phone calls, by going to the official websites that are connected to stopping, opting out, of these annoying things. And, you can help to protect your identity while you’re at it. To learn more about how to opt out of receiving prescreened offers of credit, telemarketing phone calls, and unsolicited commercial mail and email (in the United States), then read our article "How to Opt Out of Prescreened Credit Offers, Telemarketing Calls, Mail & Email."

14. Look at your monthly bank statement for unaccounted withdrawals. If you see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t account for and don’t know how to explain, then you may be the victim of an identity theft. If this is the case, then you will want to contact your bank and talk to them about the situation, change your passwords, talk to the business which made the charge, and anything else you can do to clarify and fix the situation.

15. Have you not received important bills or other important pieces of mail? If not, and you are expecting those pieces of mail, you should contact the businesses that sent those pieces of mail and see if there is a problem. If they say that they’ve sent the bill or piece of mail already, then let them know you haven’t gotten it yet, and make sure they have their red flags up in case of suspicious activity. Also, contact your financial institution to let them know that something may be wrong so they can keep the eyes on the lookout too.

16. Are you getting calls from debt collectors for money they claim you owe, even though you don’t know anything about it? If so, someone may have stolen your identity and used it to borrow money in your name, and took off without paying back a cent, leaving you to fend for their misdeed. If this is the case, then you should contact the police, the credit bureaus to place a fraud alert, your banking institution, and the company that lent the money to the thief. You may also want to hire Ovation Credit Services to help you deal with these debt collectors.

17. Regularly get your credit report from the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Take a look at those reports, and if you find items on those credit reports that are unfamiliar, such as bank or credit card accounts, or some charges, then you should contact the credit bureaus to have them flag your account. You can get your credit report free from each of the three bureaus once a year, by law, and if you want to get it more often, there are services, like MyFICO that will allow you to monitor your score daily. To find out how to get your annual free credit reports from the three major credit bureaus in the United States, read our article: "How to Get Your Free Credit Reports; How to Correct Errors in Your Credit Reports."

18. Limit the amount of credit cards that you have – if you can keep the number down to one or two, that would be the best. By increasing the amount of credit cards that you have, you are actually increasing the possibility of credit card fraud; you are increasing the amount of money by which you could go into debt at someone else’s expense.

19. Look over your shoulder at the ATM machine. If you are at an ATM or at a store using your debit card, be very suspicious of the people around you – you never know if one of them could be shoulder-surfing, and learning your pin code. Always try to hide your hand as you type in the numbers, and perhaps hunch over the keypad to make the numbers more difficult to see. You would be surprised at how many people get their money stolen by people that learn your card number and your pin code.

20. Look for anything unusual or suspicious on or around the ATM machine. One scam that has been used these days is done at the ATM kiosk. Identity thieves will attach a card reader on top of the card reader where you insert your debit card in order to copy your card’s number, and they will attach a hidden camera somewhere nearby in order to find out your pin code. When they put the two together, they can create a duplicate debit card, and with your pin code, that they now know, they can access your bank account, and drain you of all of your funds.

21. Put a "Fraud Alert" on your credit report if you need to. If you get a notice from your banking institution or another company where you do some sort of business or have some sort of account, then you will want to make sure to notify the credit bureaus, if the firm hasn’t done so already, change your passwords, and put everything on lockdown. Learn how to put a fraud alert on your credit report, read this artice: "Placing a Fraud Alert or Freeze on Your Credit File."

22. Put a "Freeze" on your credit reports if you need to. If you do think that there is a problems with someone trying to steal your identity, you can always have the credit bureaus put a “freeze” on your credit reports, which prevents new vendors from trying to access your credit history – companies and banks with which you already do business can still access your credit report, but no one else. This will keep anyone from being able to get credit set up in your name for the length of the freeze period. To learn how to do this, read our article on the subject.

You may also want to read our article "28 Ways For You to Save Money Through Your Banking, Savings, and Credit."

NOTE: If your credit was damaged by identity thieves, it would be wise to use a credit repair service like Ovation Credit Repair.

Regarding Health Care:

23. Did you get an unexpected bill for medical or health services that you know you never used? If you did, then you are probably the victim of an identity theft. In this case, you should contact the medical provider, talk to them about the situation, and see if you can work to clear your name.

24. Look at your medical records regularly, if possible. If you find that those records show that you have medical conditions that you know in fact that you don’t have, then you should work to rectify the situation and get rid of those conditions. To learn more about how to fix mistakes in your medical records, read our article on the subject.

25. Did your medical claim get rejected by your health care provider? If it did, and they claim that you’ve reached the limits of your health benefits, and you know that you haven’t used your health insurance, then you probably had your personal information stolen by some identity thief somewhere.

To learn more about how to spot medical identity theft, and how to fix it, read our article: "Medical Identity Theft – How to Spot it, How to Fix it."

You may also want to read our articles "8 Ways to Save Money on Health Care" and "6 Ways to Save Money With Your Prescriptions."

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