How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft and Stay Safe

Protecting ourselves from identity theft is on most of our minds these days. It's a scary proposition to find out one day that your credit cards and bank accounts are no longer yours to control. The thought of someone using your money and your credit to enrich themselves at your expense makes most of us angry. Learning how to protect yourself from identity theft is important. Amazingly, just a few simple things can make you a much smaller target for thieves. You see, thieves target "easy money" and if you've made it difficult for them, they will likely look somewhere else for their crooked deeds.

While this list obviously isn't everything you can do, it's well-rounded and will cover the bases to take you off the radar for most identity thieves.

Protect Your Social Security Number

If you do nothing else to protect yourself, at least do this. Your SSN is your passport to credit and that means it's the easiest way for a thief to get there too. Only use your SSN when absolutely necessary. Do not give it out over the phone unless you are completely sure of who you're talking to and don't put it on things that you're mailing unless they are sent certified or by other, trackable means.

Finally, the one that's overlooked most often, is to never put your SSN on a job application until you've been interviewed and are likely to get the job. Many job applications are thrown away without shredding or destruction or filed away for unscrupulous employees to access later. There is no requirement that you put your SSN on the application unless they state that they will be using it for background checking. Otherwise, your SSN is not needed until you are actually hired for the job.

Monitor Your Credit

Most people know that credit monitoring services promise to keep them safe. Do you know how to protect yourself from identity theft without purchasing a service? It's a little-known fact that most credit monitoring/locking services are little more than insurance companies. They take two or three simple steps to guard your credit and then bank on your not being a victim so they don't have to pay out their guarantee. That's exactly how an insurance company operates.

The first thing they'll do is "lock" your credit reports. See below for more information on that important step. Then they will order a report, in your name, every few months or once a year (depending on the service) and compare it (via computers usually) to older reports to find changes. They then look at those changes to assess whether they're legitimate.

All of this can be done by you, yourself, without their help. It's usually cheaper to purchase identity theft protection insurance than it is to purchase an entire monitoring service. Most insurance companies now offer ID theft insurance. You are entitled to a free credit report every year from all three credit bureaus. Take advantage of that and look it over carefully for any unauthorized discrepancies. You might even find things that shouldn't be there that you can remove to improve your scores!

Lock Your Reports

The credit bureaus, by law, are required to allow you to request that your credit reports be "locked." They call this "freezing" too. What this does is close your report from outside looking without your express authorization. This means that credit card companies scanning reports to pre-authorize offers won't have access and neither will any credit institution or group that isn't either already supplying you with credit or specifically authorized by you for that look. This is how to protect yourself from identity theft of the worst kind: total credit takeover.

Watch Your Mail

Last, but not least, make sure to watch your mail. Shred and destroy pre-approved credit offers (don't just throw them out), do not receive blank checks or other bank correspondence to non-secure mailboxes, and don't put outgoing bill payments into non-secure boxes. Get a PO box (or the equivalent at a service) and use that to receive your bills and other personally-identifying mail with account numbers and other information on them. Mail your bill payments from locked, blue Post boxes or at the Post Office-the #1 way for thieves to steal credit and checking information is to take outgoing bill payments.

Hopefully this short list will show you how to protect yourself from identity theft and will get you started down the road to security

For more information and a helpful guide to protect yourself, take a look at - Avoiding Identity Theft

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