With the FTC receiving over 350,000 complaints related to identity theft in 2012, it’s important for families to understand how to best prevent identity theft. Dealing with identity theft can be a huge nightmare, so prevention is definitely the best option. Here are six ways to help protect your family from identity theft.
Don’t give out your SSN
While there are some legitimate reasons to give out your social security number, but you shouldn’t give it out to just anyone who asks. Often you’ll find that doctor’s offices, schools, and even some athletic organizations will ask for your or your children’s social security number when you enroll. Ask if it’s necessary, and make sure that they have proper security measures to protect your information if you are required to provide it.
Consumers are able to get a free credit report from each credit-reporting agency annually—and more frequently if you feel that your identity has been compromised. Request your credit reports, and make sure that you recognize all of the accounts on the file. If there’s anything wrong, investigate immediately. Plus, use a service like Credit Sesame to monitor your credit for free. If any alerts look suspicious, notify the credit bureau. That bureau is then required to notify the other two bureaus of a possibly identity fraud.
Password protect your devices
With the number of banking and finance apps available for smart phones, it’s more important than ever to password protect mobile devices. That way, if you ever lose or misplace your device, your private information can’t be easily accessed. For those with children who also have electronic mobile devices, you should also make sure that their devices are password protected.
Beware of scams
Phishing and phone scammers will try to get you to give them your social security number or other personal information. Don’t provide this information to anyone or any website without knowing exactly who they are and why they need this information. Also, don’t click on suspicious emails—go directly to the website to input your information.
Shred private documents
Shred any documents that include credit card numbers, social security numbers, or other personally identifying information. If you still receive pre-approved credit card offers, or credit card checks in the mail, shred those as well if you aren’t going to use them.
Only carry essential cards
Memorize your social security number, and don’t carry the card in your wallet. You should also limit the number of credit cards you carry at one time, and always know what is in your wallet. That way, if it’s stolen, you can report the cards missing immediately.