Your Identity, Your Safety: 5 Important Things to Know About Identity Theft

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Every day, you risk having your identity stolen. By merely carrying your credit card and driver’s license around, to purchasing your lunch with your debit card, to buying something online, you’re exposing yourself to identity theft. In fact, according to a recent Federal Trade Commission study, approximately 10 million Americans become victims of identity theft every year. With the cases of identity theft continuing to rise, here are five essential things that you need to know to avoid becoming the next victim of identity theft.

Thieves Don’t Need Your Credit Card Number

Unfortunately, thieves don’t need to have your credit card to steal your identity. The sophistication level of professional identity thieves continues to grow along with their methods, warns Rob Douglas, identity theft, and scam expert. Sometimes they need a single piece of information about you, allowing them to gain access to the rest of your sensitive information quickly. This is why it is so important to lock up important documents like your birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards, and your credit cards when they aren’t in use.

Non-Financial Personal Information is Often Enough

The seemingly innocent personal facts that you reveal online can be used by thieves to steal your identity. To keep your identity from being taken, never list your full birthdate on any social media site, don’t list your phone number or home address on any website that you use for business or personal reasons. To keep an eye on your identity, you can set up Dark Web Monitoring services to alert you if any of your personal information is found on the dark web.

Frequently Review All Bank and Credit Card Statements

You should be checking your bank and credit card statements every week for suspicious activity. Look for charges that are for less than a dollar or two from companies or individuals that are unfamiliar. Often, thieves who are looking to purchase a block of stolen credit card numbers will test to see if the accounts have been canceled by customers who are aware of their stolen information.

Be Careful with Your Mail

Be aware of the billing cycles for your bills. If a credit card or other bill hasn’t arrived, it may mean that someone has changed the billing address on your accounts. If you have to order new checks, don’t have them sent to your home, instead pick them up at your bank, because stolen checks can be altered and fraudulently cashed. Also, drop off outgoing mail at the post office, rather than putting it in your mailbox, where anyone can grab it and steal your credit card numbers and other financial information.

Go Paperless

Don’t give identity thieves the opportunity to steal your mail. Sign up with your financial institutions and other companies to receive paper bills and statements. You can also opt to access your statements directly from the issuer’s website instead. For added protection, any receipts or paper statements that you do receive should be shredded immediately, rather than throwing it in the garbage.

No one is immune to identity theft, but when armed with the knowledge about how identity thieves often operate, and a little common sense, you can stay one step ahead and protect your identity.

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