Keeping your identity safe is important. If someone else is able to get their hands on your sensitive identification information, not only can they pretend to be you for all intents and purposes, but they can also take your money, your credit and your entire life The anonymity of this crime makes many people feel helpless to prevent it.
There is no need to be hopeless though. There are some easy ways that you can keep your identity safe, starting today, that can make a world of difference in protecting your information. Here are the Top 10 ID theft prevention tips that you can implement today to help to make your identity safer.
1. Don’t carry extra credit or debit cards
Do you have one primary account that you use for spending? Then keep that one card with you and lock up whatever other ones you may have in a safe location at home where thieves won’t think to look. Not only does this make it harder for an identity thief to get their hands on all of your accounts, but it will also improve your spending habits.
2. Crosscut shredders are a must have in your home
We all like to joke about the guy who got his tie caught in the shredder, but those old shredders really don’t do anything. Straight line cut paper is easy to remove from your trash that is curbside and can be easily taped together by an identity thief. Look for a crosscut shredder that spits out tiny little pieces of paper. This will discourage an identity thief to no end.
3. Recycle Your shredded information
Taking your personal papers that have been shredded and dumping them into a huge recycling bin full of paper eliminates the curbside thief. Mixed up with literally tons of other paper, your identity simply gets lost in the mix.
4. Never carry your Social Security card
The only reason why you need a Social Security card with you is to provide a copy of it to a new employer, and even then you could make the copy at home. Other companies may request your Social Security card for verification of who you are, but you can request alternative methods of identification.
5. Use one time credit card numbers while online shopping
Many credit card companies offer an online shopping service where they will assign your account a unique number that is good for one purchase only that you have authorized. This prevents identity thieves from getting your actual credit card number if you happen to have spyware of keylogging software inadvertently installed on your computer.
6. Don’t surf the internet without anti-virus, anti-spyware, a firewall, and anti-malware software installed.
The internet is a dangerous place thanks to the actions of a few, so to keep yourself safe while working, surfing, and playing online, be sure to have all the protective services properly installed and updated on your computer. Identity thieves have even started to create viruses that affect Apple’s O/S, so always remember that every computer you own is a potential target.
7. Keep a list of all your financial account numbers locked away.
If you do happen to lose your wallet or purse, or you suspect you have become the victim of identity theft, time is of the essence. By having this information easily accessible, you can simply grab your list and start making calls instead of fumbling around on the internet and through your files trying to find it after the fact.
8. Don’t give out any information to people you don’t know.
Why would someone you not know or a company you’ve never done business with need your identification information? To steal your identity, that’s why! If you don’t know who is asking for your info, don’t give it to them until you’ve verified the authenticity of their request.
9. Beware aware of “phishing.”
Phishing is one of the biggest causes of identity theft around today. Identity thieves get you to give them your information through a bogus e-mail or even phone call demanding you verify your information to save an account you might have with a legitimate business. You talk to a convincing person on the phone or you get transferred to a legitimate looking website where you “verify” the info, but what you are really doing is simply handing your identity away. You haven’t won anything. Your account will not be closed. You do not ever have to give someone a password or your PIN number. Always, always, always ask questions if you are unsure!
10. Sometimes You Can Share Too Much Information
With the invention of social networking on the internet through the various websites, we tend to get very friendly with a lot of different people who we may not even know personally. All it takes for an identity thief who has friended or followed you to get into your home and take your identification information is for you to post that you’re going to be out for a few hours, that you’re headed out on vacation for a couple weeks, or that you’re in charge of the school carpool for next week.
Chances are you have pictures uploaded of your home that even show your file cabinets, safes, or lockboxes in the background behind a smiling face. Be careful about who you decide to let follow you & friend you, and then be careful about what you share with them. Without intending to do so, you could be setting yourself up for an identity theft incident and not even realize it.
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime currently in the United States, and it is growing around the world as well. You can protect yourself against identity theft easily by following these Top 10 guidelines as consistently as possible, while also looking into a credit monitoring protection plan that might fit your extended needs. Identity theft is a $40 billion per year problem – don’t let it cost you too.
Most people these days realize that their entire financial history is chronicled in a detailed credit report. Almost 70% of people, however, don’t realize that the information that those detailed credit reports contain is then calculated into a three digit credit score. You can have a pretty good repayment history on a lot of items, but it doesn’t take too many negative reports on your credit report to make your credit score drop like a heavy rock thrown into a pond. In fact, some negative events can take up to 160 points off of your credit score. That’s definitely something that you don’t want to have happen to you without your knowledge… right? But that can happen to you if you don’t realize the importance of your credit score.
Why is Knowing Your Credit Score Important?
There are two important reasons why it is important to know what your credit score is at minimum on a month-to-month basis:
because lenders will generally grant new lines of credit based off of your credit score & not off of your credit report; and
knowing what your baseline score is will help you be able to determine if an identity thief is prowling around.
Your credit score, which is a number that falls between 300 – 850, is a gauge on the overall health of your financial decision-making. A higher credit score will bring you better interest rates, friendlier repayment terms, and the ability to borrow more money. A lower credit score can result in higher interest rates, rigid repayment terms, and potentially a lack of ability to borrow any money whatsoever.
What is a Good Credit Score?
So what is a good credit score? Anything over 650, as for a vast majority of lenders, this is the number where better rates and terms come into play. Yet remember – a perfect score is 850, so there is 200 points of improvement to be made. The good news is that the average credit score in the United States is 720, so you’ve likely got good credit and you don’t even know it.
When an identity thief strikes by opening up new lines of credit, maximizing those credit lines, and then failing to pay anything on them, your credit score will go down. If an identity thief gets a mortgage in your name that is then foreclosed upon, your credit score could go down as much as 160 points. A false bankruptcy in your name because of an identity thief could result in a credit score reduction of 100 points. That’s why detecting any fluctuation early, even if only a point or two, is so critical to preventing the damage that an identity thief can do.
What Makes Up a Credit Score?
Knowing what makes up your credit score helps you to be able to know how you can improve it… and know where identity thieves might be chipping away at you if your score is dropping unexpectedly.
35% Payment History: Having a history making of payments on time and not having any missed payments on all of your credit lines is one of the most important items lenders look at on everyone’s credit history.
30% Amount Owed: This looks at the amounts you owe in relation to the total amount of credit that is available to you. People who are closer to maxing out all their credit limits are deemed to have a higher risk of making late payments in the future, and this can lower their credit score. Not having any credit activity on open credit lines for a lengthy period of time can have the same effect.
15% Length of Credit History: A credit report containing a list of accounts opened for a long time will always help your credit score. Having a lot of new accounts opened in the last few months will not.
10% New Credit: Opening several new lines of credit in a short period of time can lower your credit score twice. Multiple credit report inquiries can represent a greater risk because it appears that you may be attempting to obtain new credit, but this does NOT include any requests made by you, an employer, or by a lender who does so when sending you an unsolicited, “pre-approved” credit offer. Also, to compensate for rate shopping, the credit score counts multiple inquiries in any 14-day period as just one inquiry instead of multiple inquiries.
10% Types of Credit in Use: Is all of your credit in credit cards? Or do you have a mortgage, a vehicle loan, a department card, & a couple credit cards? More variety will equate to a higher credit score.
How Can You Monitor Your Credit Score?
There are two very easy ways to monitor your credit score. You can:
sign up for an identity theft protection service plan that includes credit score monitoring; or you can pay one of the three major credit bureaus to access your credit score and your credit report.
Now some states do offer their residents the ability to access their credit score for free, in addition to the free credit reports that you are entitled to under Federal and State laws. Be sure to check your local resources to determine what kind of products are available in your area and what you may need to do to be able to access them.
By monitoring your credit at least monthly, you’ll be able to tell if your credit score is doing something that it shouldn’t be doing, and knowing what makes up your credit score can help you to boost it higher. Identity thieves are counting on the fact that you don’t know this information… but they do.
Remember when fingerprint and facial recognition scanning was just cool spy tech seen in Mission Impossible movies? Until recently, only the CIA and top secret spy agencies had this cool technology at their disposal. Long gone are those days as everyone with a late model cell phone or mobile device can now take advantage of these cool biometric security features. However, there may be some downsides to unlocking your smartphone or tablet with a scan of your thumbprint or face.
By the year 2019, it’s estimated that there will be nearly 500 million biometric scanners in use around the world. Amounting to a staggering $25 billion dollar industry. Biometric scanning is meant to take the place of alpha-numeric passwords that we’ve all used for years and is being touted as a more secure way to lock down your sensitive information. But just like normal passwords, that are stored on encrypted clouds and servers across the globe, won’t thumbprints and eye scans be susceptible to hacking and theft as well?
But there have already been cases of biometric hacking on a large scale. An estimated 22 million people had their personal data stolen in a massive data breach at the Office of Personnel Management in December 2014, including RAND privacy expert and mother of two Rebecca Balebako. She received a letter from OPM last year informing her that her personal information, including her ten fingerprints, were stolen in the breach. – Read the full article here.
My name is Jon Labella and I am a Bankruptcy Attorney. I wanted to take a couple of minutes to talk to you about your credit and credit repair services. You can barely pass a corner anymore without seeing signs begging you to call now to fix your credit. Some of these companies provide a legitimate service, but many do not. It’s time for you to get a peek into how credit repair works and see if it’s worth the price.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act says that everything, good, bad and ugly, stays on your credit report for 7 years from the date it is last reported to the credit bureau. The credit bureaus received massive updates of millions of accounts from national lenders every day. Sometimes mistakes happen and your report may contain inaccurate information. A credit account that isn’t yours, a delinquency that didn’t actually happen, and some stuff that is really old that never went away. Inaccurate or outdated information contained on your credit bureau can and should be removed.
The process is really pretty simple. Pull a copy of your credit bureau report and take a look at it. If you see anything that is old or inaccurate, you file a dispute with the bureau that is reporting it. That sounds pretty involved, but it really is easy to do. Federal law required the credit bureaus to set up a website so that consumers could order their free annual credit report online. You can use this exact same website to file a dispute. The credit bureau requests verification from the creditor, and the creditor has 30 days to respond. If the creditor fails to respond, the entry is removed. If the creditor responds, the credit bureau updates the entry with the new data. If it comes back the same, then it stays.
Most credit repair companies offer to pull your credit report, review it with you to see if there is anything old or wrong, and write dispute letters for you. Nothing is mystical or magical. No special expertise, no special technical training, no advance degrees needed. Look it over, find what’s old or wrong, and let the bureau know. You can do it all online yourself. How much is it worth to have somebody hold your hand while you do that?
That is all legitimate credit repair companies do for you. Now, let’s talk about the not so legitimate ones. Some credit repair companies will tell you that if you bombard the credit bureau with disputes, then the creditor will get overwhelmed and will miss responding to the credit bureau. If the creditor doesn’t respond, the entry will come off. As nice a thought as that is, the bureaus and the creditors caught onto this one and the law has been changed to only allow one dispute per entry. So while that may have worked in the past, it won’t fly now.
Other credit repair companies encourage you to set up an alter ego for yourself by changing your name slightly, altering your social security number, or otherwise adjusting your identity. Common sense should tell you this isn’t cool. Even suggesting that a consumer do this is illegal. Many other credit repair companies just take your money and don’t really do anything for you. I have even heard of one company that charged $500 for a box that had a credit bureau report order form and a bunch of form letters.If you do decide to use a credit repair company, know your rights. All credit repair companies have to use written service contracts and give you a signed copy of it. They have to provide you with a disclosure of your rights regarding credit information. They cannot require payment in advance, and all service contracts carry a 3 day right to cancel. If you have gotten tangled up with a questionable credit repair company, call us. We can help.