Identity theft is now more prevalent than ever. A person can use your personal information, bank details or credit card details without your permission for personal gain. This is a fraudulent use of your information and normally will cause you, the victim, varying degrees of loss and inconvenience and therefore identity theft avoidance methods are more important than ever.
Consider for a moment the trail of information you leave behind you when you pay the pizza delivery guy with a check – you may be asked to write your name and address on the back and that piece of paper, with your personal and bank details on it, goes through various hands before it makes it’s way back to your own bank. Any unscrupulous person in that chain could have access to your finances and potentially clear your account. Being aware of these issues is the first step towards identity theft avoidance.
The most important thing you should do in order to avoid identity theft is to be aware in every situation where you have to divulge your personal information or where others could potentially use it.
Here are three identity theft avoidance tips to help you:
1. Always aim to keep information – personal information, bank details, social security numbers, pin numbers etc – out of the sight of others. Preferably do not write anything down where it can be stolen by others and especially do not keep financial information together in your purse or pocketbook. A good tip is do not write your personal information on the back of a check, instead write down your phone number and then if verification is needed or there is a problem the bank can contact you.
2. Phone calls asking for personal and financial information are another potential trap and as such you should not give out information to anyone that calls you. Instead either ask for their number and call back (after first verifying their credentials independently) or call your bank or whoever the caller represents and verify the information they need.
3. Online identity theft is an ever increasing problem and therefore you need to exercise due diligence when buying goods online. What do you know about the company? Have you bought items from them before? Check whether the yellow padlock shows in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. Do they used a recognised payment processor e.g. Paypal, WorldPay etc?
You should never divulge your financial information until you are happy that the website is genuine and that your information is secure. You can always contact the Better Business Bureau to see if they are genuine.
Cloning websites is very popular as a way of relieving you of your cash and personal details, so never click links within suspicious emails. Many companies will tell you explicitly that they will never contact you in this way. If you are at all unsure then reassure yourself by contacting them yourself.
As you can see identity theft avoidance is achievable if you are careful with how you secure and use your personal and financial information. Be careful out there!