Identity theft tops the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) list of consumer complaints – and with good reason. An identity hack can steal your tax refund, alter your medical records, prevent you from securing a loan or getting a job – and even take out a loan in your toddler’s name.
What sucks even more is being the sucker. Here are fifteen ways to prevent theft, fraud and suckery from happening to you.
- Make a list of all of your credit cards (including account numbers and emergency phone numbers of each issuer). Secure this information in a safe place – as in, anywhere but your wallet!
- When you use your credit card in a restaurant or store, don’t let it leave your sight.
- Keep your driver’s license in your wallet, but leave your birth certificate and Social Security card out!
- Install a locked mailbox to prevent mail theft. And if credit card or bank statements don’t arrive on time, call your lender and bank.
- Take care where you leave your wallet or purse when you’re out and about. Leaving it on the table when you go to the loo is a no-no.
- Use drive-through ATMs whenever possible. Otherwise, utilize them inside stores or other well-lit, well-trafficked areas.
- This should go without saying, but don't write your PIN on your ATM card or store it in your wallet. Memorize it!
- Put preapproved credit cards and loan applications through the shredder before you trash them.
- Check your bank statements as soon as you receive them.
- Order a copy of your credit report every twelve months, and keep an eye out for signs of fraudulent activity.
- If your state uses your Social Security number on your driver’s license, request a randomly assigned one instead.
- Never give out your Social Security number, bank or credit card information on the phone, unless you initiated the call.
- If you’re concerned about a potential scam, call the cops.
- If your wallet or personal identification is stolen, don't hesitate. Notify the police, your credit card providers, your bank, and the three major credit reporting bureaus.
- If your financial privacy has been compromised in any way, ask each credit bureau to place a fraud alert on your credit report.