Taking stock and taking charge


Back in 2007, the Federal Trade Commission published a booklet called “Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business” that gave five tips for protecting personal information.

The booklet concentrates on five key things that we can also do as individuals to better protect our information.

Take stock

What personal or sensitive information do you have?  Any form of identification should be considered personal and/or sensitive.  Whether it identifies you or accounts you hold, property etc.  You need to know that you have it and get it all together in one place.

Scale down

Honestly evaluate your situation do you really need 15 credit cards?  Do you really need a credit card from every retailer you shop at.  If you have a Visa that is accepted at Sears, JC Penney, Macy’s etc do you really need a separate credit card from each retailer?

Another big and unnecessary risk we take is with all those retailer loyalty cards.  How many do you have hanging from your keychain right now?  Every one of those little keychain cards represents a different database that you are now listed in.  Do you really shop at that retailer often enough for it to be worth the risk?  If not, opt out of the program.

Lock it

Separate your information into what is necessary and what is not.  Secure your personal information.  A home safe or strongbox can serve this purpose.  Any documents you are not using should be locked away in a safe place.

Pitch it

Now how about that pile of unnecessary documents and cards?  First things first.  If you are planning to scale back on credit cards, contact these creditors and close those accounts! Identity thieves love dormant accounts.  Properly shred all of the documents and cards that you have deemed unnecessary.

Plan ahead

There is an old adage, “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”  That is exactly what you need to do, prepare for the worst.  There is no way to completely eliminate your risk of becoming an identity theft victim, so you need to be prepared when and if it happens to you.

Photocopy the contents of your wallet and lock it up with the rest of your important information.  If it is ever lost or stolen, you will know exactly who to contact to close the accounts.  It also will be easier to list what was stolen or lost on the police report that you file.

Make a list of all the loyalty rewards programs you are enrolled in so that you can easily contact them.

Have something in place to help you fix it!  Restoring an identity is not as simple as many think.  According to Wiley Rein Publications, it can take an average of 600 hours and an average cost of $1,400 to restore an identity.  This is where Identity Theft Shield from LegalShield can help.

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