Tips for Keeping Your Financial Information Safe

Thieves use a variety of techniques to steal private information about you and your personal finances. From fraudulent e-mails to dumpster diving, identity thieves have an array of tools at their disposal. Don't be the low-hanging fruit; use these simple strategies to help prevent someone from stealing your financial info:

  • Reduce solicitations, especially through the mail, which is only fodder for thieves.

  • Lock your mailbox. This is one quick and easy solution to keep sticky fingers out of your personal info. The postal carriers can deposit mail into the box, but no one can make a withdrawal without having the key. Consider taking your outgoing mail to the post office directly or to a U.S. Postal Service depository mailbox, which you can find just about anywhere.

  • Have your payroll check, pension, or Social Security checks automatically deposited into your bank account so that thieves can’t get hold of any hard copies, acid-wash your name off the checks, and cash them for themselves.

  • Shred all paperwork containing any personal information before discarding, including any document containing any of the following information:

    • Your name

    • Date of birth

    • Address

    • Social Security Number

    • Account numbers

    • Account statements

    • Checks

    • Bills

    • Paycheck stubs

    Prior to discarding any of these documents, keep them in a safe place, such as a locked file cabinet.

  • Don’t give out any personal information to anyone you don’t know — either in person or on the phone — unless you initiated the contact or can validate that she actually is employed by the company that she’s representing. If in doubt, don’t give it out!

  • If possible, use a landline phone when providing private financial information over the telephone. Identity thieves can gain access to your private financial information by eavesdropping on your conversations taking place on cellular or cordless telephones.

  • Carefully protect all user IDs, password information, and personal identification numbers. Never carry this information in your wallet, and don’t save this type of information on your computer or on any Web site.

  • Never have anything printed on your banking account checks, such as your Social Security Number, phone number, and so on, that isn’t required.

  • Don’t allow your Social Security number to be used as your participant number, user ID, username, or login name on anything. Frequently, group health companies use a Social Security number as your employee ID number. Call your insurers or your human resources department at work and request a new employee ID number and insurance card.

  • If you carry a purse (or man-purse), don’t let it out of your sight. Hang it on the back of your chair or place it on the floor next to your chair at a restaurant. These same rules apply to laptop computers!

  • If or when you dispose of a computer, erase the hard drive first! You may want to use a product like Disk Wipe to make sure every last bit of information on that computer has been erased.

Don’t think that all thieves are strangers. In more than half of all reported identity theft cases, the thief turned out to be a coworker, family member, or friend.

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