Identity theft prevention
Millions of consumers experience identity theft every year in America. Data breaches have been common. Here are 11 ways to help protect your identity.
- Strong passwords: Avoid easy passwords like your first name or last name. Do not use your date of birth or your social security number. Make passwords a challenge so they are not easily detected. Use as many letters, numbers and other keys as possible to make your password strong.
- Billing cycles: Monitor your account online and look for entries that do not belong to you. This should be done monthly or more often if your card has been compromised. Notify your creditors immediately if you detect a charge you did not make. Also, update your personal information regularly in case someone has changed your personal information in order to control your account.
- Protect checks: Never give someone a check as a means of a way for them to know your address or phone numbers. Use checks for bank transactions only.
- Phone call information: Never give personal identity information to someone you do not know. If they call your phone and you do not know them, don’t provide them with your personal identity information - ever.
- Mailbox: Promptly remove your mail each day. Do not place outgoing mail in your mailbox. Instead, give it to the postal delivery person or mail it at the post office for the highest level of security.
- Shredder: Buy one and use it. No documents should leave your home in the trash.
- Direct deposit: Have pay checks and other recurring amounts you receive all done via direct deposit.
- Debit/credit cards: Only carry what you need. Do not carry all your cards that are only used on occasion. Never carry your social security card.
- Secure personal identity information: For credit cards/bank cards, keep your information in a safe place and do not carry it in a wallet or purse. If lost or stolen. report it immediately.
- Social Security Number: When someone asks for it, verify why and what type of security is in place to guard your personal identity information. It should not be used as a form of ID for you.
- Credit report: Check your credit at least 4 times each year, quarterly at the very least. Check all three credit reports and report anything that does not belong to you. Its free! Consider freezing your credit when you are not in the market for any large purchases.
- Credit lock: If traveling out of country lock your credit. The level of protection outside the US is very low in comparison on PII in the United States.
Cons, frauds and scams
These cons, frauds and scams (known as CFS) take advantage of human weakness such as greed, gullibility, goodness, hope and fear. And if that’s not enough, once a victim we are less likely to report our misfortune due to pride. Remember, con artists do not look like criminals and they like you to think they are friends. The goal of a con artist is to swindle cash/money, so since cons come in many ways the goal is always money, usually in cash. Remember…if they call/contact you, be aware. If it sounds too good to be true, it is!
- No one will pay you cash or anything else of value for no good reason. If they say they will, red flag.
- If you are asked for an investment up front…it’s a con!
- Never give a caller your personal identity information over the phone or in electronic format for any reason.
- Never give credit/debit information to an unknown caller.
- There are marketing, employment, dating/social sites, cyber/chat room, payment and prize/sweepstake scams all over the internet and they change often. It is impossible to list them all.
- If someone you do not know emails with claims to good to be real. it is a scam.
- If someone attempts to con you in a chat room, stay off that site. Nothing good comes from internet/social networking scams.
- And remember…protect children and the elderly online. They are an easy target!
Landscaping: Home security starts outside. Good visibility depends on plants and shrubs being trimmed away from windows/doors. Allow no place for someone to hide around your home.
Exterior lighting: Use a motion detecting light source or a system that automatically turns on a dusk and off at dawn.
Doorbells: Consider using camera doorbells that allow you to see/communicate with someone at your door.
Windows: Use quality locks and/or supplementary locks on your windows. Remember fire safety when choosing a supplement style locking device. Use window cover so a person cannot investigate your home and see from front to rear.
Garages: Always keep your garage door closed/locked. (Yes, even when working in the yard.) Many home burglaries are through an open garage door. It is a large soft target. When away from home for an extended time consider a dead bolt lock on the garage door.
Exterior doors: Use quality doors and locks. On sliding or French style doors, use supplementary locks for added security. Use dead bolt-style locks with a minimum throw of 1 inch.
Fences/gates: Gates should always be locked to prevent entry from outside the yard. Have a professional lock smith suggest/install quality locks if in doubt.
Home inventory: List all the items that may be a theft target. In the event of a loss a detailed inventory is helpful for law enforcement and your insurance company. This includes recording the make, model and serial number of values or taking a picture of items like jewelry.
- Never leave valuables in view. If they can look in your car and see it, they may steal it!
- Use hidden storage areas or your trunk to store things until you can remove them from the vehicle.
- Never store firearms, jewelry, wallets or purses in your car as they are extreme theft targets.
- Never store any electronic device in your car. They will get stolen.
- Lock your car, remove your valuables and hid anything that may be a theft target.
- Never leave keys in ignition or in the vehicle.
- Never leave your vehicle running while unattended, such as to run inside for a cup of coffee.
- Always park in a well light area and always use all the anti-theft features your vehicle may offer.