Are You Safe From Identity Theft?

MAR 02, 2011

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Identity theft statistics show that this type of crime is still on the rise – despite increased security efforts by corporations and public awareness of the problem. ID thieves victimized about 11 million Americans in 2008-2009.

Is there any good news about identity theft? Only for those who know how to protect themselves against it.

If there’s a lesson we can take from the alarming numbers, it’s that lack of caution can lead to a world of harm. The way we live, particularly the sheer amount of time we spend online, means that a devil-may-care attitude about how we enter the Web leaves the door open to thieves and scammers.

It pays to remember that real people with real lives – both victims and perpetrators — are behind those shocking identity theft statistics. It is possible to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. Here’s how:

* Change passwords. Since the Internet is a major point of vulnerability, it’s important to be smart about your passwords. By changing them every six months, making them unique – something meaningful to just you – and using a string of letters and numbers longer than six characters, you’re arming yourself from becoming a victim.

* Manage your mail. ID thieves will go low to steal your personal, identifying information, even as low as digging through your garbage. Make sure you look at all mail that comes to you so you can screen out documents that might compromise your identity. Put sensitive items aside to either be filed away or shredded.

* Inspect ATMs. Identity theft statistics apply to bank cards and credit cards as well as your medical records and other forms of ID. You might not suspect it, but an ATM can pose identity theft risks. Thieves will attach cameras and skimmers designed to obtain your card information and pin. It’s worth looking a little silly by trying to jiggle the card reader, checking for added face plates and covering the keypad.

* Get help. If you don’t want to be a statistic, you might need to get some back up. It can be difficult to be on the alert against identity theft at all times, but using a protective measure like ProtectMyID can pick up your slack.