If you frequently make purchases online, or if you use a credit or debit card while shopping, you know that one of the most common risks associated with these practices is identity theft. Of course, identity theft can happen to anybody, even if you don’t use your debit or credit cards while shopping, but when consumers share important financial information online, they’re putting themselves at a higher risk. Unfortunately, with online shopping becoming more and more popular, identity theft continues to become increasingly common. Luckily, however, there are many steps you can take to safeguard your identity and prevent yourself from becoming a victim. Apart from protecting yourself with the proper identity theft coverage, make sure you follow these tips for keeping your identity safe:
Only Carry the Essentials
Though we can all understand the importance of carrying around a wallet or purse, some people like to carry around their social security card, all their credit cards, their passport, and sometimes even their birth certificates. While there certainly are a few situations in which you would need to present each of these documents to someone, in most scenarios, it’s overkill. Imagine if you were to lose any of these important documents: Someone could find it, begin taking out more credit cards in your name, making unauthorized purchases in your name, and much more. To help prevent this from happening, it’s important to only carry around with you the personally identifying items you need the most: like your driver’s license, insurance card, debit card, and one credit card.
Beware of Fraudulent Phone Calls and Emails
If someone sends you an email informing you that you’re a distant cousin of a wealthy prince in Zimbabwe, and they need your bank account information to send you a share of his riches, 1,000 times out of 1,000 it’ll be a scam. Likewise, if the phone rings and the person on the other line says they’re a government employee requesting personal information, don’t necessarily believe them right off the bat, because this could be a scam designed to rob you of your identity. The only time that you should consider it safe to give out your personal information is if you were the one who initiated the call/email, and you know it’s a trusted source.
Shred Unwanted or Expired Documents
Whenever you get something in the mail, even junk mail, one of the best ways to safeguard your identity is to shred any of the envelopes or documents that have your name, address, date of birth, social security number or account information on them. Scammers have gone to great extremes to get personal information, and they won’t think twice about raiding your trash. In addition, whenever you get a new credit or debit card (or any important documents, i.e. passports), shred the old and expired ones so that your name, account numbers, and personal information can’t be easily recovered.
Only Shop on Secure Websites
As mentioned before, if you like to participate in online shopping, you should be aware of the very real dangers that exist. While online shopping, in and of itself, isn’t inherently bad, you run the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft whenever you put your credit or debit card numbers online—especially when you use your debit card. Unlike debit cards, credit card users are protected by the Truth in Lending Act, which states there’s only a $50 limit on liability for unauthorized purchases, even after your missing card has been used. As for debit cards, however, you could be liable for only $50, but you could quite possibly lose every cent in your bank account too. That being said, the best way to keep your identity safe while shopping online is to only shop on websites that have the secure lock symbol at the top of the page and that start with: “https.” If neither one of these security measures are in place, do not shop through that particular retailer on the Internet.
These are just a few of the things that you can do to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft. However, the most important tip to remember is to simply practice common sense – both online and in the real world. Just keep your personal documents secure and practice safe shopping habits, and your identity will stay protected.