Identity Theft: Beyond Shredding — What You Should Know to Protect Yourself
According to the Federal Trade Commission, 9 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year. Identity theft means that someone has illegally obtained personal information — such as Social Security Number, credit card data, etc. — and is using that information to commit fraud or other crimes. Restoring your credit and clearing your name after your identity has been stolen can be an arduous and time-consumer task.
Don’t put yourself (or your clients or employees) at risk. Follow these guidelines to help minimize your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.
Guard online information
Nowadays, many of us do everything from shopping, banking, paying bills, watching TV, and listening to music online. Using the same username and password for each account makes it easy for someone to gain access to accounts and sensitive information.
- use strong passwords and change them (and usernames, too) on a monthly basis
- never send credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank account numbers, or other personal information via email
- be alert to “phishing”: when emails or pop-ups appear to be legitimate banks or businesses asking for personal information; if you did not initiate the contact, do not provide any information electronically
- keep anti-virus software up to date.
- shop online only on secure websites — an image of a lock should appear at the bottom of your browser or look for “https” in the address bar
- pay for online purchases with a credit card which has better protection guarantees than debit cards or online payment from checking accounts
- limit who can access your social networking sites and never post your full name, address, or phone number
Monitor your financial statements and accounts
Checking your bank accounts and credit card statements on a regular basis will let you know immediately if there is suspicious activity.
- monitor bank and credit card statements and report anything suspicious to the bank or credit card company immediately
- check your credit report — by law, you are entitled to a free report every year from each of the three companies (request your copy here)
- keep your mail secure by emptying your mailbox quickly or putting a lock on it; mail bill payments from the post office or a secure mailbox
- if you will be traveling, request a vacation hold on your mail from the USPS
- limit what you carry with you: don’t carry your social security card, and take only those credit cards or debit card that you need for that trip
- tear the labels off of prescription bottles before you dispose of them
- be very wary of telephone scams: never give out personal information to telemarketers
- keep your financial documents and records in a safe at your home; lock your purse or wallet up when at work
- keep your laptop password protected
- before you dispose of a computer or mobile device, remove the hard drive and have it destroyed.
- report suspicions of identity theft to www.identitytheft.gov
Shred sensitive documents
Regularly shred bank statements, credit card statements and applications, bills, and anything containing your personal information instead of throwing it into the trash or recycling. Junk mail often includes some of your personal details.
For your personal or business needs, talk to the experts at Federal Records Management and Shredding about our completely secure storage and paper shredding services to protect you, your employees, and your clients or customers. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.