There really is no need to pay a company each and every month for the rest of your life to safe guard your identity. By taking a few precautions yourself you can prevent identity theft from happening to you, or at least lower the chances to negligible.
Go buy yourself a shredder and get into the habit of using it. If your town newspaper covered a story revealing personal files had been discovered in the trash at a local health clinic you wouldn’t be impressed so why do you throw out papers with your details on them?
Dumpster diving has long been a method criminals have used to get the info they need to steal an identity and shredding removes this danger. Things that can’t be shredded such as credit cards and DVD’s/CD’s with saved files from your PC should either be burned or have the scissors taken to them.
In our household we have a basket for unwanted mail and once its full one of the kids does the shredding as part of that weeks chores. This removes the temptation to just throw an item into the trash because you are in a hurry that particular morning.
If in doubt, shred it. Even junk mail has your full name on it and gives the criminal a starting point.
Make sure you know who is on the other end of the phone line.
You are in the middle of making dinner, the phone rings, the person tells you he’s from your bank and apologizes for the inconvenience but they’ve just had a computer crash and just need to verify a few details with you. You’re in a hurry, your mind is on the roast in the oven and you aren’t thinking straight and BINGO the criminal just found his next victim.
Your bank or other financial institution will never ring and ask you to confirm your login details and they shouldn’t be ringing to ask you for your SS number, DOB or other personal info either. That’s why they asked you that weird question when you first signed up, you know the one about your first pet or your mothers maiden name? That question is there for staff to verify who you are and is the only one they should be asking you.
If you get such a call ask for the persons name and extension number and tell them you will ring back in 5 minutes. Telephone the number without the extension to verify where the call is coming from.
Be safe online.
Most of us have heard of the email from someone in Africa wanting someone to help him move millions of dollars out of his country. All you have to do is give him your bank details and he’ll share the money with you. Despite the publicity this con received there are still people falling victim on a daily basis. Since this email first did the rounds though the criminals have developed much more sophisticated methods to get your details.
Your bank, Paypal, Ebay, Gmail and Hotmail, Amazon and all those other services you may use will never ever email you asking for your log in details. If you get such an email click on nothing apart from delete.
Some criminals have taken to copying the look of a company mail to further increase the chances of success. Some have even gone another step and have cloned a site completely so you are completely convinced you are at the genuine site of The Bank of America for instance.
Here’s how it usually works: Using our Bank of America example they will send out millions of emails that look just like the genuine article. Now the majority of people receiving this email will realize its a fake because they don’t have accounts with that bank but this form of identity theft is a numbers game and a small percentage will have so they open it up.
The mail will inform them that a large transaction needs authorizing and can they please log in to their account asap and it’ll even provide the link to the log in page.
Of course, its not the genuine log in page but an exact clone of the original. The unsuspecting victim enters their log in details and they are collected by the criminal who then uses them on the original banks website to gain access to the account.
Be aware of these tricks and be vigilant. They work because they trigger a need for us to find out what’s going on and so we act without thinking but does your bank really email you when money goes in or out of your account? If in doubt, click nothing and give your bank a ring.
Gmail in particular are good at spotting these fake mails and will either send them straight to the spam folder or if not, will warn you that it doesn’t appear to be from who it claims. Also, many of the anti virus software suites now guard against this type of thing so make sure your software is on and updated regularly.
Facebook – more and more of us use it and its scary to think that if it were a country it would be the 8th most populated in the world. What scares me about it is the amount of info people put in their details.
Put your identity thief hat on for just a minute. Cold calling, bulk emailing etc. will catch the odd victim but what if you could increase your success rate to something like 1 in 10 or even 1 in 5 phone calls?
If I were to call you claiming to be from the Bank of America my success rate is going to be extremely low. You might be wise to these cons and there is also a good chance you aren’t even with that bank so its a none starter and a waste of a dime.
What if I were to call though saying I was from your old high school and was trying to get the class of 88 together? I drop a few of your high school friends names in to the conversation to put you further at ease and oh by the way, can you confirm your Social Security number for me just so I know I have the correct Jane Doe?
I know you left in 88 because your DOB is on Facebook. I know which high school you went to and who you hung around with because that’s all there in your profile too.
Make sure you have your privacy settings to only show your name and nothing else to anyone who isn’t a friend. Make sure you know exactly who that friend request is from before accepting.
Preventing identity theft is the same as preventing your house from being the next one to be broken into. You put an alarm box on the wall, a ‘beware of the dog’ sign up, some exterior lighting, decent window and door locks and a bigger fence. The robber comes along, takes a look, realizes its way too much work and risk so moves on to your neighbors home.
Its the same with your identity. Your trash is full of shredded paper, they move on to the next. You refuse to answer their questions on the phone, they hang up and dial another number. You don’t reply to their emails, they send them to others. Your Facebook profile is hidden, they move on to someone else.
Be vigilant and be aware of the dangers but don’t be panicked into purchasing services that require you to pay a monthly subscription. You can prevent identity theft yourself with some good old common sense.
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