How Can You Protect Yourself From Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a huge problem that, in 2014, affected over 17 million people in the United States alone. That number represents an increase of 1 million in the two years since 2012.

Identity theft isn't just someone stealing your identity over a long period time. It can be just one instance of a person using your account, credit card, or personal information for a use that was not authorized by you.

Examples of Identity Theft

Knowing what constitutes identity theft is an important step toward learning how to protect yourself from its occurrence. Here are some common examples of identity theft.

  • Your credit card information is obtained when you use it and then is used to make unauthorized purchases or to get cash advances.
  • Your tax ID and information is stolen and then used to file a false tax return and take possession of your tax refund.
  • Your Social Security number, name and other information is stolen and subsequently used to open up a new line of credit.
  • Your personal information is stolen and used to get a bank loan.

Where Identity Theft Can Occur

Identity theft can occur almost anywhere. A hacker can actually gain access to your computer and steal your identity from your own home. The theft can occur anyplace you use your credit card. It can occur anyplace you announce your personal information out loud or write it on paper. Knowing this, the best course of action is to be vigilant about protecting your identity.

Protective Steps to Guard Against Identity Theft

Be wary of credit card "skimmers." These are temporary devices typically installed at ATMs and gas stations. Skimmers are made to look identical to the slot where you insert your bank or credit card. When you use it, the skimmer gets all your details, including your PIN. Thieves commonly leave the skimmers in place for an hour or so, then return to get them, along with your identity. Skimmers are hard to spot. Carefully inspect the card slot. If it doesn't match its surroundings or appears cheap or removable, don't use it.

Avoid applying for credit in open places like store checkout lanes. An identity thief could easily listen in on your details and steal the information. Only apply for credit with a secure Internet connection in the privacy of your home.

Use password-protected home WiFi. Nearby neighbors can see your WiFi information on their own computers. While there are free WiFi connections available, it's best to use your own, password-protected connection whenever possible, in order to avoid computer hacking.

If you suspect your identity has been stolen, contact the authorities immediately for guidance on further steps. To further protect yourself, you may also want to engage the services of a document shredding company, such as Document Demolition LLC.