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Chapter 2. MAKING YOURSELF LESS VULNERAB... > More Tips for Making Yourself Safer ...

More Tips for Making Yourself Safer from Identity Theft

The bad news is that you can't do anything to guarantee that you will not become the victim of identity theft. The good news is that there are a number of simple (and not so simple) steps that you can take that can reduce your chances of becoming an identity theft victim. Some seem a bit excessive, and perhaps they are, but the decision is up to you. Remember, even paranoids have enemies.

  1. Consider paying bills online. It can be cheaper and more secure. But be sure that the online service you are using has security protection. Anytime you provide personal information online, make sure that the site is secure. On Internet Explorer, look for the little lock symbol that shows your information is being encrypted.

  2. Check your bank statements, telephone statements, credit card statements and brokerage account statements for unauthorized charges. Each month when you get your statements, scrutinize them carefully to make sure that every charge is legitimate. Keep your statements in a safe and secure place. Shred the statements when you no longer need them. If a monthly bill does not arrive on time, promptly notify the company. Sometimes a thief will use your personal information to get your credit card company or other company with which you do business to send your bill to a new address. In this way, the identity thief is able to prolong the period that he or she is able to fraudulently use your account before you or the company becomes aware of its improper use.

  3. Your mother was right. Don't talk to strangers. Updating Mom's advice, don't talk to strangers online. Do not download files that sent to you from people you do not know. Not only could your computer be damaged through a virus; it also could subject you to computer programs commonly called “spyware” that permit an identity thief to access your personal information.

  4. Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet.

  5. Get a shredder to destroy all your unnecessary financial records as well as pre-approved credit card offers. Dumpster diving identity thieves can go through your trash to find the mother load of information for identity theft.

  6. Do not write down your PIN number or passwords. However, be sure whatever PIN or password you choose is not something that is easily associated with you, such as your name or your pet's name.

  7. Do not store your personal information on your laptop computer. Laptop computers present a tantalizing target for thieves. Many people prepare their income tax returns on their computers, forgetting about the sensitive personal financial information that may be left on their hard drives. Always remove this information from your computer upon completion of your tax return.

  8. Get a good anti-virus software program and keep it constantly updated. Viruses can infect your computer with spyware programs that, unbeknownst to you, may cause your computer to send information stored on your computer to the hacker that can facilitate identity theft.

  9. Set up a firewall on your computer. A firewall is a computer program that makes it more difficult for hackers to get access to your computer by preventing or selectively blocking access to your computer through the internet There are many good firewall programs that are easy to install on your computer

  10. When you get rid of your computer it is not enough to merely delete personal information. Deleted information remains on your hard drive and can be readily accessed by a computer savvy identity thief. Make sure you use one of the special programs that are available that will effectively remove the information from your hard drive.



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