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Identity Theft: 5 Ways to Protect Yourself

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Posted by Tim Semelroth

Image of shredded papaer

The 2017 Experian credit leak was a sobering reminder that your personal information could be taken and used by strangers to rack up bills and destroy your credit.  To protect yourself from identity theft, follow these five commonsense tips:

  1. Regularly check your account statements – Each month, look over your credit card and bank statements to make sure there are no fraudulent charges. If you see something questionable, contact your bank or credit card company.
  2. Limit what you share online – Identity thieves use Facebook or other social media sites to find information on you. One way they can find out this information is through online quizzes you take.  These quizzes may contain answers to common questions used to unlock personal accounts.
  3. Cover your tracks on public computers – Shared computers are common at schools and local libraries, but they should be used with caution. Never leave a public computer unattended while you are signed in, and make sure the browser doesn’t save any of your passwords.  Once you’re ready to end your session, log out of all browsers and clear any browsing data from the computer.
  4. Shred or burn all of your important documents – Old income tax information, check stubs, old credit cards, and other sensitive documents must be disposed of properly. One popular option is to burn these documents in a fireplace or campfire.

Another option is to shred these documents.  If you need to destroy old credit cards, make sure the shredder you use can handle a credit card.

  1. Consider freezing your credit – A credit freeze allows you to seal your credit reports and keep anyone from establishing new credit in your name. It does not protect your existing bank and credit accounts – those will still need to be checked monthly to make sure there are no suspicious charges.

Remember that you may be charged a fee each time you need to refreeze that credit line.  So if you are buying a car or a home anytime soon, your credit line must be unfrozen in order for the bank to do a credit check.

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