Identity theft is no game, but the stakes can be really high. Your identity is essentially “currency” today and if it’s threatened, jeopardized or worse, stolen, it can hurt you in many ways.
Repairing identity theft can take you time and money—not even counting the amount that might be lost before the theft is even seen, found and stopped. Of course, there is also much frustration and stress throughout the entire process as well.
Thus, ideally, preventing identity theft is better than trying to fight it or bounce back from it after it’s already happened. And the first step in prevention, is knowing how identity theft often happens so you try to proactively guard your identity and keep it secure.
Thieves find discarded credit or identity information
Many identity thieves claim they simply found ID information in the trash or laying around, just waiting to be taken and used.
If you get paper credit card statements, pay stubs or other financial paperwork with identity information printed on it, you need to be sure personal info can’t be lifted from the items when they’re thrown away or discarded. Solutions include shredding the documents or using specially-made “cross-stampers” that you roll over private data so that it can’t be seen or read.
Thieves put “skimmers” on places where you pay with your card yourself
Skimmers can sometimes be placed by criminals on gas pumps, store self-service terminals, and even on ATMs. Before you enter your card to pay, run your hand around the perimeter of where you insert the card and make sure you don’t notice anything unusual attached. If you do, report it to the business and/or use a different machine.
Thieves lift data from cards – even driver’s licenses – remotely while you’re walking or even driving by
This is a different type of skimmer and can pick up your card or ID info while the thief is nearby, using a special machine. The good news is RFID blocking wallets and card cases, which can now be purchased at many different places, can prevent this completely.
Cybercrime puts your identity at risk
Cybercrime could occur on your computer, through your phone, or via the website of a company with which you do business.
For your own phone or computer, you need to watch out for phishing emails that try to scam your info. These emails will look almost just like an email from a company you do business with on a regular basis. However, the email address it’s coming from will be slightly different or there might be odd misspellings in the email. A good rule of thumb is simply not to click on links in such emails but rather if you receive an email from a credit card company or bank you use telling you that you “need to verify account info” or something similar, go directly to the website that you usually use—the company’s official site. OR call the company directly and ask about the email. Also, using “spyware” and spam prevention tools on both computers and phones is a smart move.
Unfortunately, you can’t really control what happens on the websites / web servers of a business. However, for websites you frequent, you can request that they delete all your personal data. It’s now required by law that they do that upon your request. Yes, it makes it a little inconvenient to sign up anew every time you use such as site. On the other hand, if they are storing personal data like your social security number, it will simply be the safest option.
Obviously, there is nothing you can do to make yourself 100% safe from identity theft. However, keeping yourself protected from the aforementioned risks with the associated, provided, tips should help.
Furthermore, using an identity monitoring and protection service like we offer at Credit Score Junkies will not only help you preempt any potential identity theft attempts, it will help catch and stop breaches in their tracks fast.