In 2012, direct and indirect losses from identity theft cost consumers $24.7 billion! Only about 7% of people ages 16 and over were victims that year, but $24.7 billion is still a lot of money. And identity theft can happen in so many ways – theft from a spouse, unauthorized use of a bank account, misuse of personal information and more.
With so much opportunity for theft, how can you protect yourself? The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping consumers protect themselves, has some great resources. We’ve pulled some of those tips to get you started:
- Don’t give your social security number out to anyone who doesn’t need to have it. Use it only for your taxes, employment or credit reasons.
- Put all of your outgoing mail in a secure mailbox or at the post office.
- Use strong passwords for all of your online financial accounts. Use a mix of letters, numbers and characters. I use Passpack or Dashlane to store my passwords securely. Norton also offers a password dashboard.
- Use firewall software like Norton to protect your computer from unauthorized access.
- Shred personal documents with a cross-cut shredder. Sometimes local banks will host shredding events where documents are shredded on site for free.
- Be familiar with the billing cycles for your accounts and contact your creditors and utility companies if your bills are not received on time.
- Review all bank account and credit card statements carefully – whether in print or online. Some have time limits to report fraudulent activity.
- Never give out personal information over the phone, through the mail or online unless you initiated the contact and know the organization you are dealing with.
- Reduce the number of pre-approved credit offers you receive by calling 888-5OPT-OUT.
- Get a copy of your credit report and check for unauthorized accounts or usage. You can get one free copy per year at AnnualCreditReport.com or by phoning 877-322-8228.
We’ll write more about identity theft, so subscribe to our blog to stay informed. If you ever have a question or want more info., Penny Smart Girl would love to help! Just give us a call or send us an email through our website.
From chaos to calm,
*Source: Identity Theft Resource Center