In a society where sharing mundane details of your personal life is the norm, you may be doing yourself more harm than good. Here are a few tips to help keep your personal information safe from ID thieves.
Criminals can acquire personal identification through a number of different privacy breaches. Typically, the perpetrators get the information directly from victims by fraudulently gathering information via trash piles, theft of personal documents from homes and vehicles, or—more brazenly—by pickpocketing or purse snatching.
While no one can guarantee they won’t become a victim of identity theft at some point, there are a few ways to help thwart would-be title takers.
Omit. The risk of ID theft can be mitigated partially by not offering too much personal information online or over the telephone. Many companies have a standard contact form that asks for a plethora of personal information. Often, many of these fields are not required but get completed anyway. A good rule here is offer only the information needed to complete a specific task at hand. Social Security cards should not be kept on one’s person and the number should not be filled out on medical or other forms not related to employment.
Destroy. Simply enough, destroying personal information keeps it out of the hands of criminals. A shredder is invaluable for getting rid of all documents. A word of warning: don’t throw the shredder’s wastebasket away without dividing it among a few different outgoing trash bags. A desperate criminal can—and will—piece together bits of information if they must.
Secure. When filling out a form online make sure that it’s on a secure and encrypted page. Double-check the web addresses and if it doesn’t begin with https (note the “s” on the end), it’s not a secure site. Also, PCs should be set at the highest possible security setting to guard against malware or invisible phishing schemes.
In recent years, many commercially available ID theft protection services have become available. These may offer some level of protection but cannot guard 100 percent against all forms of identity theft.