The phrase “identity theft” was a bit confusing when it first hit pop culture back in the ’90s. Car theft, theft of money, horse theft…those things we get. Anything you can physically pick up and take away can be stolen. But your identity? How can someone steal a name? In time, of course, the nation became educated on just how many clever schemes have been designed to do just that. Just about everyone knows someone who has been a victim of identity theft. Don’t be that someone.
5 Selling Computers
Technology moves rapidly, and equipment becomes obsolete a month after you buy it. So you decide to sell your old computer. You’ve gone through your “C” drive and deleted all your love letters, that novel you’ve been working on, pictures, credit card information, password diary, daily journal with your innermost thoughts and bank account information. Cleverly, you emptied your recycle bin — you’re too smart to forget that. But nothing is ever really deleted unless it’s done by a pro. For about $40 you can have a professional geek erase everything on your hard drive so that it can never be recovered by anyone but the FBI (or Mark Harmon and his CSI team). You may trust the friend to whom you sell your old laptop, but who’s going to get it after he’s done with it?
4 Purses & Wallets
It’s a major buzzkill if your wallet goes missing and you have to alert all your creditors. If it falls into the wrong hands, thieves can use all the information to buy expensive goodies and open new accounts in your name. All you really need to carry is your driver’s license, insurance card and a credit card. Leave your social security card, voter’s ID and retail credit cards at home unless you know you need them. That way, if somehow your wallet goes missing, you only have to call one creditor. Better yet, use a smartphone app with a password to keep your credit card numbers secure. Many merchants accept just a number if you show them your driver’s license along with it.
3 Being Lax Online
Pickpockets don’t leave their homes anymore; they’re on the Internet. Being lackadaisical about basic Internet security makes it simple for crooks to steal your identity. Hate to break it to you, but there really is no faraway prince with a fortune he needs to deposit in a U.S. bank but can’t without your help, for which you will be richly compensated. Clicking on links embedded in emails from scammers installs spyware your computer. People who don’t know how to check the security of a site on which they’re sharing credit-card numbers are asking for trouble. Replying to phishing emails is another common mistake. These come from people pretending to work for a company you trust and provide a link so you can fill out forms and present them with all your information, including passwords. How very nice of you to be so accommodating.
2 Oversharing Your SSN
It’s common for a doctor’s office or other provider to ask for your social security number, but unless that doctor is your employer, resist. They only want it so they can track you down if you turn out to be a deadbeat. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, avoid divulging this info. You never know who is working behind the counter, who’s got a grudge against the employer, who’s desperate for money, or who has access to all your info.
1 Ignoring Everything
A common way to have your identity stolen is to simply ignore credit card statements and calls from your credit card companies. Ignorance may be bliss, but it won’t be your bliss. If Visa calls to check on an unusual charge but you screen the call thinking they’re nagging you for a payment, you’d never know that they just want to check with you because some creep just used your card to buy a monkey in Fargo. And if you don’t check your credit card statements, you’d never see the pet monkey someone purchased on your Visa.