It is estimated that nine million Americans are the victim of some form of identity theft each year. This is a staggering number, and is one of the reasons that preventing identity theft is on the minds of so many. There are several things that you can do to ensure that you are not one of these nine million victims.
Your first concern should be your bank account. When that emailed, or paper, bank statement arrives, do not push it to the side. Examine each entry, and be certain that everything listed matches with the bills you have paid, and the purchases you have made. If you have online access to your bank account, and most now do, take a few minutes to log on each day and review the entries.
Credit card companies have become hyper-aware of identity theft, and many will call you, or even halt a transaction that seems suspicious. However, do not automatically assume that this will be the case. You should review your credit card statement, and check your daily entries online if you have the ability to do so. Never throw credit card statements directly in the trash. They should be shredded before being discarded.
Additionally, never give your credit card number to anyone that you do not fully trust. When shopping online, see which type of security a site has in place. While the larger sites typically spend thousands of dollars to ensure that your information is safe, smaller sites may not have the funds to put excellent security measures in place.
Online purchases and bill paying are one of the top concerns of many, but in reality, your credit and debit card information can just as easily be stolen when you eat out, or shop at brick and mortar stores. This type of theft is easy to carry out, as the person with your card has not only access to the number, but to the three digit security code on the back. Most stores now allow you to swipe your own card, and eliminates the need for you to hand it to a cashier.
If the store does require that the cashier handle your card, watch closely to see what this person is doing with your card. If they seem to be paying close attention to it, writing anything down, or looking on the back, ask for your card back immediately. Restaurants are the worst, as servers take your card out of your site to complete the transaction. This allows them plenty of time to write down all of the information off of your card without you ever knowing it. To avoid this, it is best to pay cash.
Preventing identity theft will also require you to keep an eye on your credit reports. You can do this on your own, or use one of the many reliable credit monitoring services that are now available. These companies serve as a watchdog on your behalf, and will alert you to any new accounts being opened in your name, any suspicious activity, and much more. For what they offer, these services are quite affordable.
Identity theft is big business, and while progress is definitely being made in the form of online security, it will be up to you to protect yourself everywhere else. Preventing identity theft is really a matter of using common sense. The thieves are getting more creative, but if you are safely protecting your information, there is nothing that they can do. Monitor your spending activity, destroy documents containing personal information before you throw them away, and keep an eye on your cards when shopping in public. If you do these things, the chances are great that you will not be the next victim.