It's human nature to think “it won't happen to me. It's always the other guy” but don't kid yourself. As many as nine million Americans have their identities stolen every year. That's a staggering number. If you've ever known anyone who has gone through this particular hell, you know how life-altering it can be.
Here are 6 simple steps to protect yourself.
- Always shred financial documents or documents with personal identifies such as social security numbers.
- Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or imprint the number on your checks. Yes, some people still do.
- Be especially alert for bills that don't arrive on time, new credit cards that arrive unexpectedly or denials of credit for no apparent reason.
- Inspect your credit report at least once a year. Better yet, sign up for one of the credit report monitoring services. There are more mistakes than ever on credit reports but even more important, reviewing your report can show you if someone has accessed it without authority.
- Do not leave personal information out in the open. A trades person can scoop up a piece of paper without you knowing.
- Always shred credit card applications that come in the mail unsolicited.
Hope this never happens to you or your loved ones, but you can help yourself by following the above steps.
For a list of Important Contacts that you will need in the event of Identity Theft, credit.com is a great resource.