Identity theft affects tens of millions of Americans each year, costing billions of dollars. In recent years, the number of breaches of personal information and the sophistication of identity thieves has increased dramatically, with no signs of stopping. However, there are steps that everyone can take to reduce the risk of identity theft.
1. Check your credit report regularly. In the USA, everyone is entitled to a free credit report each year. By monitoring your credit report, you can detect unauthorized accounts and changes to your credit history.
2. Buy a paper shredder and use it. Throwing out bank statements, loan documents, or other papers that contain personal information can give identity thieves all the information they need to steal your identity. Using a paper shredder – ideally a crosscut shredder – goes a long way to reduce that risk.j
3. Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet or purse. A stolen social security card will obviously give an identity thief access to your social security number. It will also make it easier for the thief to obtain other (fake) identification in your name, as many places that issue IDs will accept a social security card as a means of proving identity. For that reason it is wise to keep your social security card in a secure location at home, rather than in your wallet or purse.
4. Secure important documents at home in a safe. Burglars often look for passports, social security cards, and papers with personal information. Securing these items in a small safe that is securely mounted to the floor can stop such burglars. Even an inexpensive safe that cost under $50 will stop most burglars, who do not spend the time (or have the tools) to try and defeat safes.
5. Switch to paperless statements. Almost every bank offers the option of paperless statements. By switching to paperless statements, you can avoid having your personal information sent in the mail by your bank, which prevents theft from your mailbox (or anytime after that). On the plus side, you’ll also help protect the environment.
6. Secure your computer. Ensure your computer is kept up-to-date and virus free. Many viruses and malware now target personal information stored on computers, so it is important to avoid that identity theft risk.
While it is virtually impossible to ensure that one’s identity will never be stolen, taking the above steps will go a long way to reducing the risk.
Those whose identity has been stolen in Illinois or Iowa may benefit from legal representation. Our firm has represented clients whose identity has been stolen, and in cases where the identity thief has been identified we have proceeded with legal action against that thief on the client’s behalf. Doing so can go a long way to recovering lost money and obtaining justice.