I received a letter in the mail from the USPS the other day with a flyer on avoiding Identity Theft. Usually mailers I get from the post office go straight to the trash (once I make sure it is not something that is important). Identity theft is one of my biggest financial fears and I want to be sure I'm taking the right steps to avoid being a victim. Identity theft can quickly erase the good credit history you've worked so hard to build. Identity theft can cost you your hard earned money and your precious time.

Deter Identity Theft by:

  • Rip it up. Invest in a good quality shredder and make sure you USE IT. The best are the ones that make the "confetti" cuts vs. strips that can possibly be put back together. Make sure you can also shred credit cards. Buy.com carries a good selection of paper shredders for a reasonable price.

  • Unpublished Number. I'm not talking about your phone number; I mean your Social Security Number. NEVER carry your social security card in your purse or wallet. If your purse or wallet is stolen, so is your social security number. If your employer prints your social security number on your health insurance card, ASK THEM TO REMOVE IT. My employer used to print social security numbers on our cards until about 2 years ago. You should also never have your social security number or drivers license number printed on your checks. If you live in Georgia, they will use your social as your drivers license number. If you request that they not use your social as your drivers license number, they will change it with no problem. If a service provider asks for your social, ask them why they need it and if they can use any other identifying information.

  • Don't Get Clicky. Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails. If you get an email from your bank or broker. Go to the website that you usually use and log in to verify the request.

  • Make it random. Don't use obvious passwords or the same password for all sites. Forget about using your birthdate, mother's maiden name, last four digits of your social, phone number, tag number or any other easy to access information.

  • Hide It. Keep your personal information in a secure place at home; especially if you have roommates, have people working in your home or have alot of visitors. I went over to one of my friends and if I had wanted to steal his identity, I had all the information I needed right there on his dining room table.

Have you ever had your identity stolen?


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4 comments

  1. Anonymous // September 7, 2008 at 8:43 PM  

    Hmm. I live and drive in GA and in all the years (24 years) of having my license, I have never heard of them using your SS # as a DEFAULT. I seem to remember orginaly being asked if I wanted it to be the same, but even back in the 80s, I remember it being frowned upon and I declined.

    It may have been like that many, many years ago, but I doubt it was just in Georgia. I remember hearing about it being in a number of states, and not specific to just GA.

    Just sayin . . . you made it sound like FACT that was still true today. The 50s, 60s, 70s? Maybe. ;-)

    Nice article though. ;-) Been lurking for a long time, great stuff and many good tips here.

    Cheers,
    Laura

  2. Brian // September 11, 2008 at 8:34 PM  

    Two things.

    1) I am from Missouri and up until 2006, your SS# was default on your license.

    2) I just this week got ID thefted. I noticed online that I had weird charges on my credit card. Since my wife and I both had our cards, someone had gotten our numbers and made a fake card because the CC company said the transactions were swiped. ACK! We do everything right, we shred stuff and never put our SS# on checks, bills, etc, even if it asks for them. We are not really sure how this happened, but hopefully it won't be too much of a headache.

  3. Anonymous // September 12, 2008 at 3:31 PM  

    I live in Georgia as well and my D.L number is completely different. I don't recall having to request that either. But it is possible.

  4. Zhu // September 14, 2008 at 11:14 PM  

    This is one of my fear too... and I realized I need to be more careful!

    I never know how to discard old credit cards properly. I didn't think of the shredder...

    I'm trying to use better passwords too but I must admit I find it hard to remember 10+ "complicated" passwords with a mix of numbers and letters. We use so many passwords everyday... ATM, computer, blog, credit card...!