Due to the ever-increasing presence of social media, the general public is far more open about sharing their personal information and experiences. While this is an excellent opportunity to grow and enhance empathy among like-minded individuals, it also puts millions of people at an increased risk of identity theft. According to a recent study released by the Federal Trade Commission, the number one complaint made my consumers involves identity theft. In fact, the number of identity theft cases continually reaches new heights year-after-year.
Trying to untangle the web of complications that can arise from identity theft is a complex and frustrating experience. In fact, it can take well over a year to fully clear your name and receive the money stolen from you. While digital safety nets and safeguards are stronger than ever, identity theft is not going away – and it never will. Therefore, you must take an active role in preventing such terrible instances.
Tip #1 – Limit the Release of Personal Information
The most important step in preventing identity theft is to keep vital personal data safe and secure by limiting the number of people and institutions who have access to it. Your social security number is among the most important pieces of information a criminal needs to begin the identity theft process. According to various financial and security experts, all a criminal needs to steal your identity is your social security number, address and date of birth. Unfortunately, these are also some of the easiest pieces of information to uncover. Never give out your SSN over an unsecured website or over the phone. NEVER write out your SSN in an email.
Tip #2 – Use Caution on Websites
Criminals have become quite good at making websites appear official. In fact, there are many cases where a website looks and interacts the same as an official financial site. This is especially true when it comes to filing legal documents, such as federal tax returns. The most effective way to prevent falling prey to a criminal is to only utilize websites that belong and are operated by trusted, established businesses. When it doubt, immediately leave the website.
Tip #3 – Shred Personal and Financial Documents
While many people are turning to digital documents, there are still millions of Americans who turn to traditional paper documentation. While you may think when you throw something away its safe, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Any piece of paper that has your identification on it, such as your SSN or account numbers, should be immediately shredded before throwing them into the trash. There are even some people who burn these documents to completely protect themselves from thieves.