According to recent statistics released by the U.S. Department of Justice, about 1.6 million households experience theft of existing accounts other than a credit card (such as a banking account), and 1.1 million households discover misuse of personal information (such as their social security number) annually. In addition, a recent poll revealed that “sixteen percent of adults say they have had their credit or debit card used by someone they don’t know without their permission” and that “substantial numbers” of people have taken specific steps to help prevent identity theft from happening to them.
Here are some important tips for keeping your information safe and sound:
Give it to me in writing. While many of us have limited our exposure to telemarketing calls by utilizing the Do-Not-Call registry, charities are exempt from the Do-Not-Call rules. If you receive a phone call from any charity, ask the caller to send you information in the mail instead of giving out your credit card information over the phone. If you get any resistance, just hang up. If someone isn’t willing to give you the chance to review some information, they could be interested in more than earning a commission.
Just the facts. We often give unnecessary information like our date of birth and income level when we’re filling out things like warranty cards for new products we’ve bought or supermarket club cards. Share only what’s really necessary in every situation.
Navigating the Net. Never post your address or your full date of birth on any social networking sites because both are pieces of information needed to steal your identity. In addition, if you utilize internet job sites, never give a potential employer your Social Security number until they are ready to hire you. Also, thoroughly investigate companies before you submit your resume and check the privacy policies of any online job boards to make sure they won’t sell your information.
The world of paper. Even though the Internet has added a whole new dimension to identity theft, there are still important steps to take when it comes to paper items. First, never keep your Social Security number in your wallet, glove compartment, and other easy-to-access places. Also, never have it printed on your checks or use it as your password. Second, when you are ready to get rid of old documents that contain important information, shred them. And last, if you have to mail something that contains sensitive information, drop the letter in a secure mailbox instead of a mailbox that anyone can open (like the kind at the end of many people’s driveways).
The bottom line is this: When it comes to your personal information, share it on a need-to-know basis only!