Identity theft can not only ruin your finances, it can also be emotionally draining as you try to rebuild.
If you’re looking to protect yourself, here are some ways you can become more secure.
Keeping Your Personal Information Secure
The good news is that you can prevent some of your information getting out by taking a few precautions and home and at work.
Simplify your wallet. To keep others from snatching much of your personal information, slim down your wallet to the essentials that day. If you want to keep one credit card in your wallet for emergencies, go ahead, but don’t have all of your debit, credit, and/or store cards every day.
Ask questions. Before you share information at your workplace, a business, your child’s school, or a doctor’s office, ask why they need it, how they will safeguard it, and the consequences of not sharing.
Securely store your information. Go ahead and get a safe or a lock box to keep your sensitive information in. When at work, make sure your purse and wallet is in a secure place at all times.
Shred. Shred receipts, credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, and similar documents when you don’t need them any longer.
As with many things online, being through and cautious can help keep your information your own.
Verify. The first rule of thumb is to double check and make sure you know who is getting your financial information. Financial and government institutions (like the IRS) will not ask for your personal information through email. If in doubt, find the official contact number for the company and use it.
Wipe your old computers and cell phones. Before you throw away or donate an old computer or mobile phone, go ahead and make sure that you get all your personal data off. There are data destruction programs you can use like DBAN or your hard drive’s manufacturer’s own program. If you have a Windows computer (Vista or more recent), you can use the format command. For phones, remove your SIM card and check with your owner’s manual on deleting your data.
Create strong(er) passwords. For your most sensitive information, be careful with the passwords you use.
Be wise about how much you share online. If you have a public profile, whether for professional or personal reasons, be careful about what you post. An identity thief may be able to use that information to try and get into your accounts, by resetting the passwords and answering those ‘security’ questions.
Thoughts on Preventing Identity Theft
While this tips don’t cover every possible way an identity thief can snatch your information, it can hopefully be helpful with minimizing your chances of getting hit.
Note: Check your insurance policy to make sure you’re following the contract. For some insurers you’re required to report any ‘event’, but may not have to file a claim.
When you think about any sort of situation where you’re involved in an auto incident, then your first instinct is to get the insurance companies involved.
If you’re paying all that money on auto insurance in the first place, it makes sense to have the insurance companies foot the bill for damages, right?
Running the Numbers on Auto Insurance
But thinking about it from another point of view, there are certain reasons why you may want to keep the matter internal and avoid the auto insurance companies and claims departments altogether.
Here are four cases you shouldn’t file an auto claim in:
It may be tempting to file a claim for small yet noticeable damage, but keep in mind the entire underwriting process is about trying to discover who you are as a driver – and what your driving habits are like.
Underwriters don’t just look to the severity of the claim to see what you’re doing; they also focus on the frequency of claims you make.
Therefore, if you’re going to file multiple claims you will be labeled as high risk and could eventually pay significantly higher rates as a result.
When it comes to minor damages (things like paint scratches, dingers on your car, and other non-noticeable marks), you need to be conscious of the idea that you could have major work done to get something repaired.
However, you could also be trading away significantly higher rates in the future in order to do some cosmetic touch ups in the present.
Keeping It in the Family
Insurance is nothing more than a legal contract. It is put in place to help people who do not have a prior relationship settle their legal and financial obligations to one another.
That being said, when you have a potential claim that involves a family member or close personal friend, you could theoretically solve the issue yourselves and keep the insurance companies out of it.
Paying for the repairs yourself will most likely be more affordable than paying toward your deductible and a higher premium going forward.
When you consider the fact that your future costs won’t skyrocket, it could be a very good strategy where both parties come out ahead.
Damage Below (or Near) Your Deductible
When you have a deductible of say $500 or even $1,000, you’re basically agreeing to eat that amount of any given claim.
Assuming you have a $500 deductible, if you turned in a claim worth $600 then you would only receive a refund of $100 for the claim from your insurance company.
It doesn’t make complete sense to deal with such a situation especially when it could hurt your future risk profile, does it?
The other thing to be aware of is what happens if you actually have a claim that is below your deductible.
If your claim was $750 and your personal deductible was $1,000, then the insurance company isn’t reimbursing you for anything.
In that scenario, reporting the claim might just be a way of telling them how accident-prone you are without actually getting anything back in return. In those types of scenarios, just avoid filing a claim altogether.
Your Record is Already Spotty at Best
If your current record is already spotty and you have a couple of marks going against you (prior claims, speeding tickets, late payments, etc.) it doesn’t help to add fuel to the fire.
In addition to paying an objectively high premium, you could venture into non-renewal waters.
Obviously there are some factors in any given case that you need to consider. When it comes to things like damage to the property of others or even medical bills, then it’s wise to file a claim because to go without it would be financially crippling.
If you do get to the point of being non-renewed by your insurance company though, don’t lose hope, these days it’s easy to compare auto insurance without the pain of dialing each individual company for a quote.
In the end, use your best judgment when filing a claim. By assuming that anything happening to your vehicle is grounds for a claim, you’re only sealing your sky-high future premium fate.
Simon Davis has been a fulltime business writer since the last 4 years and has had the privilege of attending some of the most renowned business conclaves held across the world.
When not on business he loves spending time with his girlfriend and a bit of adventure sports.