Knowledge is power and no where is that more true than when it comes to keeping your identity safe. There are specific steps you can take to make yourself a 'harder' target for would be thieves.
I recently read an account of a man who lived in the Chicago area who found out that an illegal immigrant had been using his identity for several years. Since the thief paid his bills on time it never showed up on the mans credit report... he had no idea!
- The first step, and the most obvious, is don't make it easy for the thieves, learn how to protect yourself from identity theft. Don't just give out your personal information. A friend of mine has been carrying her social security card in her wallet for years. I've warned her repeatedly that she is taking a big risk.
Don't carry any more identification than is absolutely necessary. You don't need to carry your social security card with you. Also, don't leave the house with all your credit cards. Only carry one, unless you need more to go shopping.
- Never give out personal information to someone on the phone... unless you called them. There are cheap devices available today that can mask the caller ID of anyone. So even though your caller ID says it's your local bank (or utility company, or credit card company) calling that doesn't mean it really is them.
If you ever get a suspicious call err on the side of caution and politely get off the phone then call the company back... and don't call the number that you get from the person who just called you, make sure you look the number up yourself so you know who you're calling.
- You would be surprised at how much a thief can do with the simplest of information. For that reason, make sure that you shred all papers before you throw them in the trash. Again, it's a good idea to err on the side of caution. Even if you think that the papers don't have any important info on them, why not just be careful? It only takes a minute to shred.
- Never click on a link in an email to be taken to a website and then enter personal information on that site. Again, just like with the caller ID on a phone, thieves can make it appear that you are on a website, say for your bank, when in reality you are on their website and they are stealing your personal information. Make sure you type the address into your web browser.