4 Easy Steps to Take to Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the top fears of many Americans today, and it’s not unfounded. Technology acts as a double-edged sword; it both protects us and makes us more susceptible to identity theft. The good news is that, like most things we fear, there are some things you can do to make it less likely that you are affected by the mess that can come from getting your identity stolen.  Today we’re going to look at 4 of the simplest ones.

  1. Keep your computer secure. Please, above everything else, be careful about your computer. Now, if you don’t do online banking or shopping, you don’t have to be as cautious, but still, computers are expensive. Don’t mess it up just because you’re lazy. Here are a couple things you can do.-Use reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Don’t think you have to spend money. AVG and Avast! are free antiviruses; Ad-Aware and Spybot are free anti-spyware software packages. All of them are safe and reputable. If you already have programs of these types, make sure to scan with them regularly.
    - Change passwords regularly. Make them different too. Don’t just throw extra numbers on.
    -Clean your computer regularly.
    Defragmentation, disk cleanup, and cache clearing are vital to your computer running smoothly and keeping your information safe from hackers.
  2. If you’re using your debit card to pay for something, don’t use your PIN. I had a dear friend not follow this, and one day she got a letter from her bank saying that she was going to get a replacement debit card in 2 weeks. Why? Because the Wal-Mart near our college had someone break into their credit processing system. People who had used credit cards or debit cards as credit were safe, but hundred’s of people’s pin numbers were compromised. She learned her lesson and I learned it from her mistake: Use your debit card as a credit card, and don’t ever use your PIN unless you’re withdrawing money from an ATM.
  3. Keep self-identifying documents in a safe place. One of the first things that many thieves look for are your self-identifying documents: birth certificates, social security cards, passports, etc. All of my items like that are sitting in a fireproof lockbox in a storage closet. Easy access if I need them, hard to get to if you don’t have a key. You don’t want to lose that stuff anyway. I lost my social security card once; not a fun process.
  4. Shred everything. Scissors will do. Just make sure that anything that has any sort of credit card, account, or social security information is destroyed when you’re done with it. People do still dig through the trash to find that valuable information if they’re looking hard enough.

So there you have it. 4 simple ways to keep your identity safe that take no time to do. Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you here next week!

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