If you think hackers need a super computer to go through your billing records, you’d be surprised. Sometimes identity theft occurs at the most basic levels, and can often be chalked up to our own lack of vigilance.
One of the easiest ways someone can get a hold of your records is via your wallet. If you use your wallet to store deposit slips, receipts, and other bits of important information, the risk for identity theft is pretty high. All someone needs to do to access your accounts would be to swipe your wallet from the fastfood table or stick his hand into your pocket and then walk away. This is why you should always go out of the way to keep your personal information extra safe, like a bank deposit box or a safe. The top right-hand desk drawer is an accessible but predictable place to store social security cards, insurance documents and birth certificates, so skip it. Keep your documents with a lock or passkey, and preferably somewhere that isn’t in plain sight.
Take care where you throw out receipts and other financial documents. In the past, leafing through someone’s trash for documents (also called dumpster diving) was an activity limited to private investigators and detectives, but identity thieves have picked this up as a viable method of operation. To be safe, keep a paper shredder for your important documents and use it on papers that contain personal information. Make sure that your bank statements, utility bills, and credit card statements go right through the shedder before dumping them in the bin.
If you have to send your personal information via mail, don’t leave it in your mailbox for the post man to pick up. Make the trip to the post office and drop it off there. Identity thieves are big on bill payments or credit card payments. Other than acquiring your credit card number, they also get the chance to get your checking account number if you’re paying via checks.
Many of us are now aware of scams and know how to identify one if needed. You can encounter scams via mail and telephone, but these days you mostly come across them in email. This is classified as a low-tech method, because sometimes it doesn’t take much for you to just hand over your information to perpetrators of these phishing techniques.
Keep in mind that no one will try to discuss finances with you primarily by email; established organizations will have more official means than that. Business should be done over the phone, via fax, or better yet, in person. Even then, don’t willingly give out personal information over the phone. Ask for a telephone number you can call back, the name of a representative, and then call back to see if the person who called works there. If they check out, then you can be fairly certain that your information is in safe hands. Also be careful of the people within earshot when dictating credit card numbers over the phone.