Identity theft. It is an ongoing issue that should always be at the top of your list of financial concerns. After all, it only takes one slip up for your identity to be stolen and for you to suddenly find yourself in a great deal of debt with a credit history that has been absolutely destroyed. During these times of economic troubles, however, identity theft is an even greater concern than usual. These are desperate times for some people. With desperation comes poor decision-making, which is precisely what some otherwise law abiding citizens may experience when their checking accounts are overdrawn and their credit cards are stretched to their limits. So, what can you do to stay safe from the common, every day identity thief?
Shred Your Mail
One of the simplest steps you can take is to shred your mail before you toss it in the trash. When looking at desperate identity thieves that have been pushed to their limits by the stress of the economy, the most common place they will look for personal information is in the trash. First, you should never throw your mail away in a public receptacle. That is simply too easy for a thief to get his or her hands on. Next, even when you do through the mail away at home, be sure to shred it with a paper shredder first. If you live in the country, you may even want to burn your mail rather than throwing it in the garbage. This way, you can be certain no one will be able to get his or her hands on your personal information.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Another common way for the common identity thief to steal your information is to engage in what is commonly referred to as shoulder surfing. Shoulder surfing involves simply peaking over your shoulder as you punch in your PIN at the ATM or as you give your account number or social security number to a cashier or customer service representative. You may be surprised by the amount of information an alert thief can pick up by taking a peak at a computer screen or by listening closely to a conversation. Be aware of who is around you and be discreet when sharing your personal information.
Don’t Fall for Phishing Scams
Phishing is becoming increasingly common and is actually quite simple for someone who is desperate to pull off. After all, a thief only needs to pull out the phone book and start making calls to potential victims. If the thief is lucky, he or she may be able to get a few people to give up their account information or other personal data that will make it quite easy to start racking up the debt in someone else’s name. Never give out information to someone who has called you or emailed you. Rather, politely end the conversation and then call the number on the back of your credit card or on your bank statements in order to clear up any problems you may have with your account.