It’s something no one wants: that call from the bank, the credit card company, a bill collector, informing you that you owe money for something you never bought. We all like to think that we’re being smart to keep ourselves safe from identity theft, but some of your habits could make you a prime target. Some things that seem harmless may leave you vulnerable to identity thieves.
Opening Spam Emails
Those junk emails clogging up your inbox aren’t just annoying; some of them are downright dangerous. They can allow a hacker access to your personal information, even passwords and bank account information. Filling out one of those surveys or membership forms lets a person know everything he or she needs to steal your identity, and you could release a virus just by opening a message. To keep yourself safe, always use your account’s spam filter and mark any suspicious senders. Always keep in mind: if you don’t know the source, don’t open the email.
Carrying Your Social Security Card Around
An identity thief can run amok in the worst way if he or she gets ahold of your social security number. While most of us know enough to keep our numbers private without a good reason to share, you still may not be protecting it the way you should. If you carry your card around with you, you could be one dropped wallet away from having a whole host of things put in your name. Not carrying around your social security number is a good place to start, but services like LifeLock can help keep you informed and protected.
Not Protecting Your Computer
Not only can not having proper virus protection cause a whole host of problems with your computer, it can allow computer-savvy thieves access to all the personal information they need to take your identity. Viruses can record your keystrokes to get your passwords, account numbers, and any other personal information you use while online. Investing in good anti-virus, anti-malware, and anti-spyware programs can help keep not only your computer, but your identity safe.
Not Shredding Your Trash
You may think that throwing away documents like bank statements and credit card bills is enough, but think again. Your trash is an identity thief’s gold mine. Any paperwork you no longer need is best sent through a shredder before hitting the garbage. It doesn’t take a lot of information for a clever thief to get what they need, so make sure you’re not making it easy for them. A good rule of thumb is to tear up anything with your name, shred anything with financial information. A desk shredder is an inexpensive way to dramatically decrease your chances of being targeted by identity thieves.
Identity theft causes a world of trouble for you, and more often than not, it is very hard to get your finances and life back on track once it happens. Make sure you aren’t making yourself a target for fraud by avoiding these risky behaviors, and keep your sanity and peace of mind.