Identity theft is one of the most devastating and fastest
growing crimes in the United States today. According to
the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), it is estimated that as many
as one out of five Americans fall prey to becoming a
victim of identity theft each year. Over the past decade,
more than 35 million people worldwide have been victims of identity
theft as criminals are using mail theft, credit card skimming,
computer hacking, email and telephone scams to make it the fastest
growing crime in America.
The FTC has estimated that victims of identity theft lose on
average more than $5,000, making it important to learn how to
protect yourself from becoming another victim. Taking the
adequate steps to protect
your identity won’t guarantee your safety but should give you
some peace of mind.
Step 1: Look after your mail.
If you know you are not available to collect your mail because you
will be out of town, have your mail put on hold until you return or
opt for a locked mailbox.
Step 2: Ensure your trash is
Make sure to shred all important paperwork including insurance
information, credit card statements, bank statements and credit
offers prior to throwing them in the garbage. Going through a
trash can on the street for information (known as “dumpster
diving”) is the easiest way for your identity to be stolen, so
shredding paperwork will protect your
Step 3: Opt out of pre-approved credit
You can opt out of pre-approved credit card offers by calling
1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). It is only too simple for a
criminal to complete a preapproved credit card application from
your mailbox with your personal information and start charging in
your name. Opting out of these credit cards will protect you
from this risk.
Step 4: Review
your credit history on a regular basis.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) you are entitled to
receive a free copy of your credit from each of the three
major credit reporting agencies annually, order your copies to
ensure the information reported is in fact accurate and belongs to
Step 5: Safeguard your Social Security
Do not carry your social security card with you and make sure it
is in a safe place. Most banks offer a safety deposit box
free of charge to their customers and storing your social security
card there is a great and responsible idea.
Step 6: Regularly change your
While you do not want to have a password you cannot remember, make
sure it not too obvious and try to change your passwords
regularly. Smart phone apps exist today that can be set up to
remind you to change your passwords a few times a year to help
protect your identity and confidential information.