Prevent Identity Theft

If you’ve ever had to clean up the mess after your identity was stolen, you know how important it is to prevent identity theft in the first place.

Sadly, most people only think of the prevention part AFTER they’ve been victimized. It’s much easier to keep your identity safe than it is to repair it.

Here are some steps you can take to prevent identity fraud:

Carry only the ID you need. Identity theft protection is most effective as a preventive measure. For instance, you need not carry every credit card and identification you own all the time.

Never carry your Social Security Card. The only exception to this would be if you’re taking a new job. Your employer will want to have a copy. Other than that, you don’t need it in your wallet.

Dispose of ID properly. There is no earthly reason for you to be cramming old, expired credit cards into your wallet or leaving them in old wallets laying around your house. As soon as you get your new card, cut up the old one and throw the pieces in separate bins. Cut the number and magnetic strip into small pieces. Many shredders today gobble up old credit cards.

Keep your PIN away from the card. Okay, this means you’ve got to remember your PIN. Do you write it on a piece of paper and keep it next to the card? If you do this, you’re just asking to be the next identity fraud victim. Studies show that in a significant number of identity theft cases involving ATM cards, the victims wrote their PIN’s either on a piece of paper kept with the card or on the card itself. Choose a number you can remember.

Place a fraud alert in your credit file with all three credit bureaus. If any creditor tries to open a new account using your info, they must call and verify it first using the phone number provided in the fraud alert. You’ll have to renew the fraud alerts every 90 days. This usually works great but you’ll need to remember to continue updating on a regular basis.

Buy a shredder and use it for all receipts, credit offers, old bank statements and utility bills. Shred anything that has your personal or financial info on it.

Opt-out of all pre-approved credit offers.

Never give out any account numbers, PIN numbers, passwords or social security number to anyone who calls or emails you. Never do that even if it looks totally legit. Phishing schemes and scammers are getting very sophisticated.

Make a copy of both sides of every card you carry in your wallet, including your driver’s license.

Don’t print your social security number or driver’s license number on your checks.

If you have a roommate, keep your personal info in a secure place. Your roommate is probably trustworthy, but they might have a visitor over who isn’t.

Create difficult to guess passwords for your bank accounts, credit card accounts, email and phone accounts. Don’t use just one ‘super-secret’ password (like your pet’s name) for all of them.

Look carefully at your credit card statements each month to be sure all charges are ones you made.

Monitor your credit reports regularly. Subscribe to a monitoring service.

Subscribe to an Identity Theft Protection service. They aren’t expensive and will be there to help you through any problems and provide insurance for losses.

Protect your computer by using regularly updated virus protection and spyware programs.

Use a firewall on your computer and password protect your wireless connection at home if you have one.

Never put personal information on your profile at MySpace, Facebook, etc.

Don’t use filesharing sites no matter how tempting it is. You’re just opening the doors to your computer and letting the bad guys look inside and help themselves.

Don’t use your mother’s maiden name on security questions. Thieves can find this info from public records. Just make one up – you don’t need to use her real one.

Doing the things listed here is a good step to keep your personal information safe. Unfortunately, security breaches happen all the time. You have no control over situations like that. There are many companies that offer plans to protect you. Here are the ones that YourIdentitySafe recommends: Compare Identity Theft Protection plans.