12 Steps to Preventing Identity Theft

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Identity theft can happen through a number of channels, which means you need to use a variety of safeguards to protect yourself. The good news is that preventing identity theft is easier than you may think. Below are twelve commonsense steps you can take right now.

  1. Create a personal or family security plan for identity protection. With all the information, advice and solutions being offered, much of it confusing, conflicting and downright wrong, a personal security plan can help prevent identity theft, since it'll help you find and fill your vulnerabilities before an identity thief exploits them.

    Privacy Matters Identity, a service dedicated to preventing identity theft, provides its members with a detailed personal identity profile that helps them identify identity risks, including vulnerability to Internet identity theft.

  2. Have a stolen identity response plan. If you become a victim of identity theft fraud, a properly prepared response plan will save you time, money, and heartache on recovery. Privacy Matter Identity, with identity recovery assistance, can be a valuable part of your response plan.

  3. Use a credit monitoring service. A good identity and credit monitoring service, like Privacy Matters Identity, can provide you peace of mind so you won't have to worry about the next data break-in or news headline about the latest instance of Internet identity theft. You're covered!

  4. Lock down your computer with good security software. Every computer should have its own Security Six Pack — a good firewall, up-to-date virus protection, spyware protection, spam filtering, data encryption, and strong passwords — to help safeguard you from Internet identity theft. If you know where to look, it's all free.

  5. Treat your Social Security Number like Grandma's secret recipe. Committing your Social Security Number to memory is one of the most important measures you can take in preventing identity theft. Your Social Security Number is the gateway to your personal credit information — a goldmine that identity thieves look for. Methodically remove it from every printed form it doesn't need to be on.

  6. Conduct a security audit of your accountant. Believe it or not, your accountant may be your weakest security link in preventing identity theft fraud. That's because at many accountants' offices, Social Security Numbers and tax returns are regularly strewn around without much regard for security. Request and confirm that he or she keeps your files in a locked filing cabinet as well as in a protected computer that's safe from Internet identity theft.

  7. Beware of phishing. Phishing is a form of Internet identity theft whereby bogus emails, pretending to be from your bank or other trusted company, request account passwords or other personal information. If possible, go directly to an institution's website and enter your login and password directly on their site.

  8. Beware of pharming. Pharming, another form of Internet identity theft, uses bogus websites that look like your bank and have similar URLs that you may land on if you mistype the intended Internet address. Look at the address bar, and confirm you are where you want to be.

  9. Beware of phowning. Phowning consists of pre-recorded telephone messages or live operators pretending to be from a bank or credit card company that "warn" you about a bogus theft. If you receive such an inquiry, do not offer any personal information. To prevent identity theft, look up the company's fraud department and contact them directly.

  10. File away your financial information securely and quickly. Don't leave such things lying around; they are a temptation to any would-be thief.

  11. Complicate your passwords. "1234" may be easy to remember, but it's just as easy for an identity thief to figure out. To reduce your risk, periodically change your passwords.

  12. Mind your mail, and invest in a secure mailbox. Leaving your mail out all day in an open mailbox or not picking it up for days is another invitation for identity theft.

And even better news — services such as Privacy Matters IdentitySM can do much of the work for you, making it even easier to prevent identity theft.

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