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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.
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 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.
Opt-out of credit card offers.
Protecting Your Personal Information Online
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.
Do you have any other tips you'd like to add?
This article was originally published April 2016 and updated November 2018.