Most human beings are easily lulled into a sense of security when they use something over and over again without incident. For example, you never bother to do regular maintenance on the lawn mower because it has always worked fine whenever you start it up. But things change that one time you try to start your mower and realize that the engine is seized up because you never changed the oil.
Your identity, and the way you use it, is the exact same way. Everything could be going great until you get that credit card bill for $5,000 that you never signed up for. Instead of doing regular maintenance on your identity, you took it for granted, and now it is destroyed. Don't wait until you get that mysterious credit card bill in the mail to protect your identity.
Shred Your Bills
Identity theft does not happen by accident. It happens because you have left open a vulnerability that a criminal was able to exploit. Perhaps the biggest mistake people make is throwing out their credit card bills and the statements for their monthly installment loans without shredding the information first.
A shredder is an inexpensive investment that can save you from years of torment and thousands of dollars of unexplained credit card bills. Never throw any of your financial papers out without shredding them first. It is the kind of off-line data security every consumer needs to do.
Watch The Websites You Buy From
The first step to online data security is to check for the "https" at the beginning of your Web browser's address bar. If the website you are using starts its address with "http," then it is not a secure website and you should not be giving it your personal and financial information. Too many consumers trust all Internet retail sites, and that is a sure way to get your data stolen.
Hold Your Social Security Number Close
Most consumers do not realize how important it is to keep a close watch on their Social Security number. Identity theft usually starts with your Social Security number and gets worse from there. When a criminal has your Social Security number, they can do just about anything to steal your identity.
Be careful about giving out your Social Security number. Unless you are applying for a credit account, it is usually unnecessary for a company to ask for your Social Security number. Always make sure that the website you are giving your Social Security number to is secure.
Don't Click On Email Links Or Attachments
Did someone you don't know just send you an email with a strange attachment? Then do not open it and delete the email immediately. One of the biggest areas of consumer vulnerability is their email inboxes. People automatically trust the emails they get, and that leads to trouble.
Your credit card companies and any other company you do business with online will never send you an email asking you to click on a link to confirm your information. When you see an email like that, even if it looks like it is from your credit card company, it will take you to a website that will steal your login information and then steal your identity. If you think that the email may be legitimate, then log into your account through your browser and not through the link in your email.
Do Not Give Your Credit Card Number To People Who Call You
More often than not, a person who calls you and asks for your credit card information is trying to steal your identity. When you call a company to place an order over the phone, you know who you are talking to and you know what company you called. But you have no idea who you are talking to when someone calls you, even if they look legitimate on your caller ID.
When someone calls you telling you that you just won a sweepstakes or your computer needs emergency repair, just hang up. If you really won a sweepstakes, then you will get something in the standard mail. If your computer was really in need of repair, then you would know it. Protect your identity by never giving your credit information to strangers who call you on the phone.