Breaking bad habits isn’t easy. We all know it, and because of this, oftentimes avoid taking the necessary steps in doing so. Want to quit smoking this year? You will, but first you need to finish the pack you have left (and the other three in your glove compartment). Want to eat healthier? Of course you do, but you can’t let that bag of Doritos just sit in the cabinet all on its lonesome. Want to better protect yourself and your important information? You always mean to take those easy steps, but then “more important” things roll around and take precedence.
The thing is, though, that safety (in all its various forms) should always come first. One form of safety which should top your charts even higher is protecting against identity theft. You may be thinking what I did not too long ago – that’s ridiculous and far-fetched – but have you ever had your credit card information stolen? I have, and if you’re like me, then you’ve hopefully realized that it takes no more than just a bit more effort or a more skilled criminal to steal your very own identity.
In fact, in a report last month by the Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC), “2012 Child Identity Fraud Survey,” the organization exposed the staggering increase in child identity theft. It found that one in every 40 households with children under 18 experienced at least one child whose personal information was compromised by identity criminals.
The report also revealed that your social security number is the top compromised identifier – followed by date of birth, birth certificate and physical address – and that victimization frequently occurs close to home by family and friends, among other key findings.
In another report by Javelin Strategy & Research it revealed that fraud incidents have been steadily rising – having increased by a whopping 13 percent in 2011 and likely continuing through 2013. Even social media interaction can put consumers at risk.
In light of this, ProtectMyID, a full-service provider of identity theft detection, protection and fraud resolution solutions, is offering five easy yet impacting steps you can take today to ensure that 2013 is your most protected year yet.
- The site first and foremost advises locking up your social security card. As a top compromised identifier, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, either. Get it out of your wallet, the company urges, and put this valuable card, along with all other important personal documents, in a safe, locked box or safety deposit box.
- Related to number one, don’t share your social security number (SSN) unnecessarily, the safety expert advises. Also, ask questions such as “Why do you need it?” “What happens if I don’t give it to you?” “Who gets to see it?” and “What are you going to do with it?” Conversely, “legitimate reasons” to provide your SSN are limited, which the company says includes verifying identity for employment; establishing new lines of credit; participating in government benefit programs; and for tax purposes.
- Invest in a good cross-cut shredder and use it, says ProtectMyID. “Destroy all documents that include personal identifying information (account numbers, birth dates, SSN, etc.). This includes those pre-approved credit card offers that fill your mailbox. When in doubt, shred it!”
- Consider investing in a locked mailbox, it adds. “Additionally, make it a habit to take out-going mail to the post office and stop using your ‘come steal me’ red flag,” the company adds.
- Last but not least, take the time to place passwords on all of your accounts and change the old ones. This company clarifies that this includes such things as bank accounts, investment accounts and credit card accounts. “Be creative and use something that cannot be easily guessed by someone who may know you. A good verbal password is not the last four digits of your SSN, your mother’s maiden name, your pet’s name or anniversaries or birthdays. A random word not associated with you or your life, is highly recommended.”
So happy 2013 and stay safe!
Edited by Jamie Epstein