Sometimes identity theft seems inevitable. Recently Sony had a security breech which left all of it's PlayStation users highly vulnerable. Even more alarming the IRS has reported recent security breeches in which individuals have stolen identities and filed fraudulent tax returns. It's true that it is impossible to entirely protect yourself from identity theft as proven by these examples, but there are steps you can take to severely lessen your risk.
Many of us stumble upon old bank deposit receipts, credit card statements and other sensitive information and carelessly toss them in the trash. This is of course a very tempting way to dispose of the paperwork which so commonly clutters our counter tops. I'm guilty of depositing a check and throwing away to the receipt right then and there. In the hands of the wrong person however these pieces of trash can compromise your financial security. Investing in a paper shredder and taking the extra few seconds to properly dispose of these information filled documents can be a quick and effective way of preventing your trash from revealing your identity.
Online shopping is an easy way to save money, time and gas. However many of us don't check to make sure we are shopping on a secure website. It is easy to get excited by our prospective purchase, quickly type in our credit card information and click purchase. But you should look for a locked graphic in your address bar before you reveal any information. While you may save a few bucks on that one purchase, if your identity is taken it'll end up costing you much more in the long run.
Beware of scams. This may seem obvious but hackers have become increasingly good at making their scams realistic. Don't simply click on links that look like their from a legitimate company asking for additional information. If there is really a problem with something the organization will not contact you in this way. Also beware of people calling to ask you for your information, whether they claim to represent a bank, credit card company or charity. Always find a way to verify that they are who they say they are.
If you still feel that even after taking these measures you are vulnerable to identity theft you may want to check your credit report. Every citizen is entitled to one free credit report each year which can be done by going to agencies such as annualcreditreport.com. You can also sign up for additional credit report services. Additionally you can ask your bank and credit card company what they are doing about identity theft. They should already have some procedures in place and you can often purchase additional identity theft security.
Identity theft sometimes strike us in ways we couldn't have protected against, but there are many steps you can take to prevent the worst. Don't think you're immune from the phenomenon that has affected so many.