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.

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