How to Prevent Identity Theft - dummies

How to Prevent Identity Theft

By Pierre Lehu

The term identity theft covers a broad spectrum of illegal activity, some of which results in serious consequences which might require years to get your identity back while others are mere annoyances needing only a change in password to fix. Identity theft is a type of fraud that has become much more common since the advent of personal computers.

Tips for preventing identity theft

It is impossible to protect yourself 100% from all forms of identity theft but there are measures that you can take that will make it less likely that you will become a victim.

  • Don’t carry your social security card with you. If your wallet ever gets lost or stolen and some unscrupulous person has many forms of your ID plus your SS number, creating a new “you” will be easy for that person to do and very difficult for you to undo. .

    To thieves, the social security number of a child is most valuable since they are for the most part a “blank slate” and so can easily be used to forge a new identity.

  • Never carry any debit card PIN numbers in your wallet. Your debit card isn’t worth very much without an accompanying PIN number so choose one that you can memorize easily.

  • Report a stolen credit card as soon as possible, and that may include filing a police report. Obviously it’s important not to have your wallet stolen, but if your credit cards, or even the account number, should get into the wrong hands, you will not be liable for those charges.

    Because banks lose lots of money eating fraudulent charges, they are now very quick to cancel a card if they suspect fraudulent activity. When going on a trip, tell your credit card company where and when you’re going so that they make a note of it. That way, your cards won’t get canceled when you’re far from home and need them most.

  • Only use your credit card to make an on line purchase when you know that the site is encrypted. Encrypted sites start with https and those letters may appear in green.

Protecting your online identity

If you spend a lot of time on the web, then undoubtedly you have many passwords. There are several steps you can take to protect those passwords, and therefore your identity.

Hackers use computer software that hammers a site with every combination of letters and numbers possible. By choosing passwords that are at least 14 characters long, and contain a mixture of numbers, letters and symbols, using both upper and lower case, you can make cracking your password so lengthy a process that the hacker will give up. Use different passwords for different sites. Experts say you’re safer having a list of complex passwords printed on a list next to your computer than trusting easy passwords to memory.

As a memory aid, make up a sentence that you can remember, and use the first letters of each word in the sentence as your password, then adding some numbers and symbols.

Consider using a password manager like LastPass or Clipperz. You only need to remember one password and the software takes care of the rest. (Of course your password is only as secure as the manager, and hackers have tried to break into these companies.)