Have you ever experienced that strange sensation you get when you come home from a long day at work to find that your home has been broken into? When you get inside, you notice that not much has been taken… but much of your paperwork, financial statements, and other identifying information has been? Sadly, this scenario plays out every day for many people. Though a breakin might be a little better than getting served with a lawsuit because of identity theft, it’s still a devastating experience, yet many people often make some common mistakes when it comes to protecting their identity. What are those common mistakes and how can you avoid making them yourself?
Not Locking Up Your Files Properly
A good rule of thumb for anything that is vital or dangerous is to put it behind a double lock. Many states require medications to be placed behind two locks to prevent someone from stealing them because of the harm they could cause themselves or others. That same care should be given to your documentation as well… and your front door doesn’t count, because let’s be honest. We don’t always remember to lock our front door every single time.
To combat this, I have a room that I keep locked in my home at all times. It is windowless, so there is no other entry beyond either drilling through the outside wall, kicking the door in, or drilling out the lock. Inside this room I keep a file cabinet that also stays locked at all times, and this is where I keep my sensitive financial and identification documents.. I then also keep the keys on my work key ring instead of my car key ring, so it comes with me virtually everywhere.
Not Disposing of Documents Properly
Every time I go out to the recycling center I cringe because there is invariably someone dumping out their junk mail without ever opening it or shredding it. They just throw it into the bin and trust that no one can grab that information and do something with it. When it comes to document disposal, however, the only person you can trust is yourself. Make sure to invest in a crosscut shredder if you don’t have one already, and then take the leftover confetti to the recycling center. You’ll get lots of jokes there from others about how you are trashing confetti, but that’s a small price to pay in the prevention of having an identity stolen.
Not Being Aware of the Environment
It’s late at night. You’ve got to get some cash out of the ATM because you’re going to have to pay for something tomorrow, where they don’t take plastic. The ATM is on your way home, so you stop and give the machine your card. That’s when you notice the shadowy figure behind you, watching your every move. Would you tell that shadowy figure what your PIN is? Would you let them watch you punch in your PIN? Or would you go to a different machine?
Many people here say that they’d go to a different machine… but in different circumstances, they are extremely casual with their PIN. They’ll punch in the number in plain sight of others while at the grocery store making a purchase. They’ll tell their PIN to a cashier because they can’t get their card to work. They’ll take out extra money from a purchase and then carry the cash out the door with them in plain sight because they haven’t taken the time to put it into a wallet or purse. Daylight might make you feel more secure… but it’s not a secure environment.
By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll be able to keep your identity more secure every day. Identity thieves have one goal in mind to profit from your identity as much as possible. It’s up to you to prevent that from happening. If you’re worried that what you are doing might not be enough, there are some great identity theft protection plans available from professional providers that can help you be more secure as well.
Don’t be that person who said they should have done something after the fact. Be the person who does something now. Sign up for credit monitoring with IdentityGuard.com today and get protected.
Knowledge is the best form of prevention.