All of us have developed habits over the course of our lives and habits can be hard to break. Some habits are beneficial. If it is your habit to take a walk every day that is beneficial, it contributes to your health and fitness. Some habits are basically harmless, like tossing dirty clothes in a pile on the floor. And other habits are dangerous like drinking and driving.
All of us are influenced by habits and often we don’t consider many habits dangerous unless they directly impact our health or lives. In today’s information driven world many habits we consider harmless are more dangerous than we think. These habits increase our risk of falling victim to identity theft. By changing these habits we can lower our risk. Take a look at these habits, everyone of them increases your risk.
Considering junk mail harmless
Junk mail shows up in our mailboxes on a daily basis and most people consider it nothing more than an annoyance. The truth is junk mail can be a real danger. How many pre-approved credit card offers do you get? All it takes if for a thief to get theirs hands on one, change the address and open an account in your name.
Tossing documents in the trash without shredding them first
Look at a piece of junk mail laying around right now, does it have a bar code? barcodes carry information, and yet most people simply throw junk mail in the trash. When it comes to personal documents people are getting better but anything that contains a name and the following information should be treated as sensitive:
- Social security or other identifying number
- Account number
- Phone number
- Date of birth
Carrying unecessary identification cards
Many of us have multiple identification cards such as Social Security card, Military ID’s Insurance cards, Medicaid cards. All of these cards give thieves the information that they need to steal your identity. Only carry these cards with you when absolutely necessary. If your wallet is lost or stolen, these cards will not be lost along with it.
Carrying too many credit/debit cards
Many of us may have multiple credit accounts or bank accounts and we have cards for each account. Limit the number of cards you carry. You don’t need to carry your JC Penney store credit card unless you are going shopping at JC Penney.
Giving our social security number as a matter of habit
Not everyone who asks for your social security needs or has a right to it. Ask why it is needed. Your employer has a need and a right to your Social Security number when you are an employee, a prospective employer does not. Government agencies have a right to your social security number, a private company probably does not. Also when giving your social security number verbally to someone be aware of your surroundings, think about who may be listening in.
Leaving purses or wallets unattended
Never leave your purse or wallet inside your car. If you must leave it in your vehicle lock it in the trunk. A thief who breaks into your car has access to the entire passenger compartment and can search through it very quickly and efficiently. Anything you leave in the passenger compartment is fair game.
Not checking our credit report regularly
When is the last time you checked your credit report? When you bought your last car? When you bought your house? Never? Checking your credit report regularly gives you the greatest chance of minimizing the damage an identity thief can do to you. Also there are government protections in place for consumers who become victims and many of these protections are time sensitive requiring you to take action within a certain time frame. For example fraudulent credit card charges must be disputed in writing within 60 days of when the fraudulent charge would first appear on the credit card bill. If an identity thief changes the address and you don’t get the bill, the 60 day time limit still applies.
Evaluate your habits of dealing with your personal information. If they are lax, work on changing those habits to lower your risk. Remember that we can all lower our risk but we cannot eliminate it. The more we develop good habits the less of a chance that a thief will get our information from us. Have a plan when and if you do become a victim, LegalShield can help.