Safe Practices At Home And On-The-Go
- Be careful when telemarketers call: Unless you initiate a call to purchase something by phone, never give your credit card number or other personal information to a caller who says they either need it for something or are trying to sell you something. Get their number and call them back if you’re really interested.
- Keep your checks safe: Don’t order new checks to be mailed to your home unless you have a secure, locked mailbox.
- Limit what you carry: You’ll probably need to carry your driver’s license and credit cards with you, but keep everything else in your safe at home.
- Lock up your sensitive documents: Treat your private and identifying documents like they are more precious than your jewelry because, in the case of a home robbery, they are. Make sure your Social Security card, birth certificate, passport, Medicare card, bank statements and health insurance statements are locked securely in your home safe.
- Restrict what information you give: Some institutions will ask you for information they don’t really need, so don’t be afraid to ask if you can withhold something. For instance, your doctor’s office or your child’s school might request that you write down your Social Security number on a form. It’s worth asking if you can bypass this part of the document. The fewer places you give your information, the less chance you have of falling victim to identity theft. If they do require this data, ask what security measures they have in place to ensure that it remains private.
- Send mail securely: If you are sending mail that contains personal information or secure material like a credit card application or a personal check, send those through an official USPS mailbox instead of your home mailbox. Additionally, keep track of what time your mail is typically delivered so you can retrieve it soon after it arrives. This way criminals won’t have an opportunity to steal your mail and gain information about you. If you’re going out of town for a few days, call the post office and get your mail placed on hold.
- Shred paper documents: Most people picture hacking cyber-criminals when they imagine modern identity thieves, but plenty of people are still dumpster diving for precious information. Make sure you’re conscientious about shredding all of your important papers, such as credit offers, receipts, insurance forms, bank statements, checks, credit cards and physician statements.
Finally, consider registering for a credit monitoring service that will alert you to certain activities that may indicate fraud. While no one can completely prevent identity theft, there are some practical steps you can take to make your personal information more secure.