Guard Your Personal Information From Would-Be Thieves

The really bad thing about identity theft is not simply that your personal information has been stolen; it’s that the thief is using that information for his or her own gain at your expense.

It’s not just your credit card that’s at risk. Hackers can access your Social Security number, medical records, date of birth, driver’s license number, even your eye color.

The identity thief can start new credit card or bank accounts using your name; he can combine your information with his own to create a completely new identity. Thieves also can use your medical information for fraudulent purposes or assume your identity if they are arrested or caught speeding.

The good news is that just as your information can be misused, there are ways to prevent it from happening.

One way thieves get their information is by dumpster diving – gaining access to your mail in the trash. For example, a thief can sign up for a credit card in your name using the application form from discarded mail offers. Shred all important documents, even those annoying credit card solicitations. There also are companies that can remove your name from solicitations’ lists.

Keep important documents, including your birth certificate and passport, in a safety deposit box. Don’t carry your Social Security card or checkbook with you.

Lastly, make sure your computer security software and firewalls are up to date. Encrypting files and using password-protected documents will give you added protection. When shopping online look for https:// in web addresses. The “s” signifies a secure link.