In the last year alone, nearly ten million Americans have become victims of identity theft. Most people are unaware that the paper trail – a receipt at the ATM, bank statements or credit card offers in the trash – makes their identity and financial well-being vulnerable to thieves. A few simple measures can save individuals countless hours and thousands of dollars. With the New Year approaching, ShredStation, the makers of ShredStation Secure Information Disposal Boxes, suggests the following resolutions for consumers:
Resolution 1 – I will keep my identity out of the hands of dumpster divers.
One of the easiest ways for a thief to steal your identity is by “dumpster diving” – finding sensitive information in one’s trash. Make sure that you open all of your mail; some envelopes may contain pre-approved credit cards. Shred all documents that contain personal information (bank statements, credit card applications, or documents containing bar codes) before you dispose of them.
Resolution 2 – I will shred my receipts when I don’t need them anymore.
Always retrieve your receipt from the ATM or a purchase and do not throw it away in a public place where others can access it. Also, keep all receipts together in a safe place while you’re shopping. Be sure to shred those receipts.
Resolution 3 – I will keep thieves out of my pockets or purse.
Be aware of your purse or wallet at all times. Although identity theft has become more high-tech in the recent years, pickpockets are still around searching for a loosely guarded wallet or handbag to snatch.
Resolution 4 – I will beware of shoulder surfers.
Shoulder surfers are people who either purposely overhear conversations or look over shoulders in order to steal sensitive information. When making purchases or at an ATM, be sure your credit cards, bank cards, driver’s license, and checks cannot be easily viewed by others.
Resolution 5 – I will take extra precautions with my credit and debit cards.
One way to safeguard against others using your credit cards is to write “check photo ID” on the back of your card near or instead of your signature. Make sure you can see your credit cards at all times and do not allow yourself to be distracted from the transaction.
Resolution 6 – I will only use secure ATMs.
If possible, use an ATM in a well-lit area, preferably one with a security guard. If you see a strange piece of equipment attached to your ATM, use another machine. The device may be a tool used for “skimming,” a process which records the details of your transaction.
Resolution 7 – I will make sure I shop securely on the Internet.
When purchasing online, keep a printout of the web page(s) describing the item you ordered, any e-mail messages, and the page that lists the seller’s contact information along with instructions for any problems you may encounter. Also, make sure you shop on sites that start with https and not http – the “s” means the site is secure. Lastly, make sure that the information you send is encrypted.
“More than 54 million people have been victims of identity theft or fraud,” said Al Villamil, President, ShredStation. “Most people aren’t aware that there are a few simple steps to prevent identity theft. The new year is a great time for everyone to start taking a more proactive approach to protecting their identity.”