Preventing Identity Theft

Identity theft can sometimes be hard to defend against, but it’s worth preventing, as a single incident can lead to months of recovery time. There are several options for protecting yourself against identity theft. If you’ve already become a victim of identity theft, it is probably best to hire a professional service or use a credit monitoring service (The Best Credit Monitoring Services 2017 Reviewed – SIF.org). However, it is always better to prevent than to extinguish the fires identity theft can cause. Rigorous research has shown that the following methods will be most effective at preventing identity theft or fraud:

Minimize the use of mail for sending or receiving financial documents, checks, and have your name removed from junk mail lists (8% of identity fraud results from stolen mail). Mail letters from the post office. In America, where standalone mailboxes are common, install a lock on the box.

Check your bank accounts each week online or at an ATM. 70% of identity fraud is detected by the victim, and victims who do so through electronic methods suffer losses of less than 1/8th that of those who rely on paper statements for monitoring account activity. (source: Javelin)Shred credit-card receipts, junk mail and other such documents, as they may contain private information. If you have a large number of documents you may want to use professional help from a shredding company that can handle the job quickly and safely

Never give out personal information in response to telemarketers and delete all e-mails that claim to be from your bank (or other financial provider) and ask you to “log in” using a hyperlink embedded in the e-mail message. If in doubt as to the legitimacy of such requests, use a telephone to call marketers or financial providers back (rather than directly responding to the telemarketer or company that called or emailed you).

When shopping online, make sure the company is reputable and displays an approved security symbol. Also, make sure you log out of the site when finished.Request your own credit report each year and check the reports for inaccuracies. If you’ve been the target of identity fraud, check the data every six months. (In the United States, you are permitted a free copy of your credit report once a year from any credit reference agency. See [1] for further details).If you are a target, keep copies of police reports and records of who you talked to and when, so that you can back up the claim of fraud.

Individuals who consider themselves at higher risk of identity fraud should consider purchasing fee-based credit monitoring services, which will notify you of any new accounts or credit inquiries made on your behalf.Limit the amount of personal information you publish on the web. Small fragments here and there may be enough for someone to impersonate you in many ways.

Be especially careful with information used as security keywords for banks, e.g. mother’s maiden name.Don’t divulge personal information such as date of birth to organisations that have no need of it – nearly all commercial organisations.

Don’t routinely carry identity documents unless obliged by law to do so.

Do not allow anyone to copy your identification documents. If commercial organisations require you to submit a copy as a condition of doing business either don’t do business with them, or retrieve the copy when your business ends (a written statement that they have not taken further copies should be obtained).

If someone calls you claiming to be from a financial institution you do business with asking for personal information – do not give it to them. Ask them why they want the information, hang up, and then call the institution (using contact information from a source other than the caller)

In the USA: Don’t order checks pre-printed with your driver’s license or social security number. If you can keep your address off them, do so.Don’t carry your social security card. Don’t give out the number unless it is absolutely necessary or legally required (employers, landlords etc.). In states where your drivers license number is your social security number, be equally careful about who sees your license.