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Avoid Identity Theft: 9 Preventative Measures

Avoid Identity Theft: 9 Preventative Measures

identitytheft

    It seems like there’s a report of stolen personal information everyday — and new twists on identity theft to go along with it. Tens of millions of people have fallen victim to some sort of identity theft. They face not only the expense of resolving the situation but also may have problems with their credit history — the thing that affects a person’s ability to get a loan, land a job or even rent a home — for years after.

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    Taking Preventative Measures

    There are quite a few steps you can take to protect your own identity:

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    1. Shred sensitive documents: Shredding any documents with your financial information, Social Security number or other sensitive information is a bare minimum to protect your identity. It’s actually worth running less crucial documents through the shredder, as well — while they may not offer any information to someone digging through your trash, the more papers you shred the harder it is to piece a document back together.
    2. Use a locking mailbox: For an identity thief, getting their hands on your paperwork can be just as easy as opening your mailbox and pulling out a few envelopes. Having a lock on your mailbox can protect you. You may also want to limit how long mail sits in your mailbox, as well — have the post office hold you’re mail if you’re out of town.
    3. Contact the post office if there’s major changes in your mail: If you suddenly stop getting mail, check to make sure that no mail forwarding was set up without your knowledge. You should also contact the post office if you think your mail may have been stolen.
    4. Put your cards, passports and other documents somewhere safe: The fewer pieces of sensitive information you carry around with you every day, the less chance you have of losing something. If you’ve got a credit card you don’t normally use, put that card away at home. It’s worth creating a safe place at home where you can lock up credit cards, your Social Security card, passwords and other personal documents.
    5. Change your PINs and passwords regularly: While I think most people have gotten the full on lecture about not using obvious passwords (like your birthday), it’s rare to find someone who changes their passwords on a regular basis. Changing your password regularly should go double for your bank and credit card accounts, as well as your email — the place where companies often send you your new passwords.
    6. Protect your computer: It may seem that your computer wouldn’t be a main source of personal information, but it offers an identity thief tons to work with, such as the credit card information you use to shop online. Keeping your anti-virus software and spam filters up to date should be a priority no matter how much or how little you use your computer.
    7. Keep in mind how much information is already out there about you: When you’re setting passwords and security questions, remember that information like the name of your high school, your mother’s maiden name and even your first pet are probably out on the internet somewhere — maybe you blogged about them, maybe you filled in a survey. Try
    8. Minimize who actually has your information: Many of the forms that ask for your Social Security number and other personal information don’t actually need it. You’re well within your rights to ask how a particular organization plans to use particular bits of information before handing them over.
    9. Check into security breaches: If you hear that your information could have been included in a security breach, it’s worth checking into. Banks and other companies with access to your information will usually be able to tell you just what information got out and what sort of problems to look for. In some cases, those organizations will provide some help monitoring your credit to help protect you.

    There are more than a few companies that offer identity theft protection services, but the simple fact is that few of these companies can offer anything more than you can do yourself. If it will provide you some peace of mind, using such a service can be worthwhile, but I would recommend at least considering doing without.

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    Keeping An Eye On Your Credit

    Unfortunately, you still run a risk of identity theft no matter how many precautions you take. The fact of the matter is that your information shows up in plenty of places not under your control. With the ever-growing numbers of security lapses, misplaced laptops and the like, there’s still a respectable chance that someone will be able to get their hands on your information.

    Keeping a close eye on how your personal information is being used can prove even more important than preventing identity theft. Checking your credit report on a regular basis, for instance, will help you make sure that you are held responsible for only the credit accounts that you actually opened. You can get free copies of all three of your credit reports once per year through AnnualCreditReport.com.. Don’t limit your observances to your credit report, though: the same goes for ensuring that you just what is being charged in your name. That means carefully going over your statements and each month.

    While it may not be quite as useful to find out about identity theft after the fact, you can still minimize the harm done to your credit if you catch any instances of fraud early.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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