Top 10 Tips for Identity Theft Awareness & Prevention Month
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Remember the iconic Top 10 List on Late Night with David Letterman? The very first one was televised 38 years ago. When David moved from NBC to CBS, NBC claimed the Top 10 List was intellectual property, but that didn’t hold water because David knew NBC had stolen it from other resources in the first place. We’re going to continue that tradition and use the concept for our own Top 10 Tips for Identity Theft Awareness Month.
Top 10 Identity Theft Tips
1. Protect Your Wallet or Purse
Wallets and purses are often stuffed with identification, credit cards, and sometimes hand written post-it-notes or notes. If your wallet or purse should be stolen, you can limit your headaches by taking these preventative measures:
- Never carry your Social Security card with you
- Limit the number of credit cards you carry
- Never carry a password in your wallet
2. Protect Your WiFi Connection
Hackers are able to see your online activity when you use public WiFi. Don’t use it for shopping, banking, or any sensitive information. If you find yourself dependent on public WiFi frequently, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to create a secure connection for yourself.
3. Protect Your Mailbox
If you have an unsecured mailbox at your location, thieves can easily steal your mail and personal information. Instead, try these security measures:
- Switch to a locking mailbox that allows for mail to be dropped inside but requires a key for retrieval.
- Try to retrieve your mail as soon as it is delivered. After all, no mailbox lock will stop a determined thief.
- Consider renting a private mailbox at the post office where security is much better than you can achieve curbside.
4. Protect Your Data
Data breaches happen, and determined hackers can breach your system and hold your sensitive information ransom. Try these tips:
- Back up your data to the cloud frequently so you have a duplicate copy.
- Check your credit scores frequently for unusual activity such as the opening of new accounts or credit inquiries you didn’t initiate. You are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
5. Protect Your Mobile Phone
If someone hijacks your phone number, you may stop getting calls and texts. You may even get a notice that your phone account has been “activated.” To help avoid this situation, utilize a PIN, password, or biometric security features on your mobile phone. Anytime two-factor authentication is available for an app, make use of it.
6. Protect your Credit Card from Skimming
Skimming occurs when your credit card information is retrieved by an unauthorized device mounted on an ATM, gas pump, or other point of sale device. Take preventative measures like only using cards with integrated chips that add extra protection, paying inside the gas station, avoiding third-party ATM machines, and using email alerts to notify you when your credit card has been used.
7. Protect Yourself from Email Scams
You may get an official-looking email or text from someone insisting that they need your sensitive data like credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, passwords, or banking information. Take these precautions:
- Never give out personal data in response to these inquiries.
- If in doubt, call the institution in question directly to confirm that the inquiry you received is legitimate.
- Take an extra few moments to evaluate the legitimacy of the sender before clicking on any link in an email or text.
- The IRS never uses email or texting to contact taxpayers.
8. Protect yourself from Phone Scams
Phone scammers may call you informing you that you have been selected as a prize winner or threatening you with an IRS investigation, then proceed to request personal or financial information to “verify your identity” or require you to send them money for some reason. To protect yourself, remember these rules:
- Don’t offer personal or financial information over the phone.
- Legitimate companies and institutions never ask for your password or PIN.
- The IRS never calls as the initial notification of a tax issue. They will send a letter via US mail, which you can confirm by calling them, not the other way around.
9. Protect Your Computer
Malware most commonly infects computers and phones when you open an email attachment, visit an infected website, or download an infected app. Some are designed to log every keystroke you make, allowing criminals to discover your passwords, account numbers, and much more. Be cautious of email attachments, links, and suspect apps and consider using password management software that allows you to avoid keying in login credentials.
10. Protect Your Paper Documents
Paper use has increased exponentially since personal computers came into widespread use, even though experts predicted the opposite effect. In fact, Americans discard about 1 billion trees’ worth of paper (85 million tons) annually. Much of that paper contains sensitive information. To avoid becoming an identity theft statistic, consider these tips:
- Never throw documents into the garbage or recycling bin without destroying them first. Consider a “shred everything” policy to avoid missing any sensitive information.
- Engage the services of a professional shredding company to make sure your discarded documents can’t be reconstructed.
Wiggins Shredding provides secure commercial shredding and residential shredding services in Pennsylvania and Tri-State MD, DE and NJ. We offer both one-time shredding and routine shredding services to keep your sensitive information secure. Celebrate Identity Theft Awareness & Prevention Month by calling us at 610-692-TEAR (8327) or completing the form on this page.