5 Things Identity Thieves Don`t Want You to Know 5 Ways You Help

5 Things Identity Thieves Don`t Want You to Know 5 Ways You Help
5 Things Identity Thieves Don’t Want You to Know
5 Ways You Help Identity Thieves Rip You Off
Identity thieves don’t want you to read this article.
They’ve made an entire industry out of living off of other peoples’ good names.
And when you know their typical tricks, stealing your identity is much harder.
Unfortunately, not enough people know what puts their identities at risk for theft.
And that has helped keep identity theft the No. 1 consumer complaint to the Federal
Trade Commission for 15 years running. Do you like the idea of thieves using your
name to make money and cause you financial headaches? Of course not. So take a
minute to make sure you’re aware of five foolish behaviors that identity thieves love
and how to fix them.
You unwittingly hand-deliver valuable personal information
To identity thieves, your trashcan and recycling bin are seen as an “in box.” They
appreciate when you toss out anything with personally identifying information—
especially credit card offers, bank statements, insurance-related materials, and
medical statements or records.
The fix:
• Purchase a quality crosscut shredder and give identity thieves an impossible
puzzle to solve.
• Shred everything with your name and any other important information on it
before throwing it out (thieves will move on to easier targets).
You leave virtual doors open
There are entire organizations dedicated to computer hacking and scams. So if
you’re using a simple password or not employing the right security measures on
your computers, smartphones and tablet devices, your information is at a much
greater risk. It’s like leaving a door open with money sitting on a table just inside.
The fix:
• Be sure to use security software that includes a firewall, antivirus and
spyware programs, and regularly update them.
• Set your devices to automatically install security updates from
• Use strong passwords that contain a mix of eight or more numbers, symbols
and upper and lowercase letters. Don’t use anything obvious, such as your
child’s or pet’s name. Also be sure to change passwords often, and use unique
passwords for important sites.
You provide ready access to IDs and documents
Your house and office have a treasure trove of documents with identifying
information and important IDs, including passports, Social Security cards, birth
certificates, and much more. If they’re not locked up, anyone with access to your
house could take a quick smartphone picture or even grab them.
The fix:
• Put important IDs and files into secure drawers, closets or safes.
• Keep them locked away when you’re not using them.
You’ve never visited annualcreditreport.com
Your credit reports include any credit- or loan-related accounts that are opened in
your name. Even if you don’t need to apply for credit or a home or car loan, it’s
important to ensure that your credit is clean and your score is as high as possible for
when you do need it.
The fix:
• Regularly review your credit reports from all three credit reporting
agencies—TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—and immediately report any
suspicious accounts or activity.
• Go to annualcreditreport.com for one free government-mandated report
from each agency once a year.
You don’t guard your Social Security number
A Social Security number (SSN) is like a key to a lock. Once an identity thief has it,
along with a few other personal details, s/he can probably establish credit or
potentially gain access to your existing accounts. That’s why you want to limit how
and where you share your SSN.
The fix:
• Don’t carry your Social Security card or number in your wallet or purse.
• Never give your SSN to someone you don’t trust.
• Only provide your SSN when it’s required.
• Avoid using your SSN as an identifier (if a company or medical provider
wants to do this, ask them not to).
By taking these steps, you can rest more easily knowing you’re not an easy target for
identity theft.
If you suspect you're a victim of identity theft or wish to proactively manage your
identity, call your local Points West Community Bank branch for assistance. For
news on the latest privacy and security trends and educational resources to help
you better protect your identity, visit www.pwcbank.com, click on your state, and
then select “Education”.
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