Avoiding Identity Theft
By: Larry Goldberg
You have a new student credit card, and you want to avoid becoming another identity theft statistic. Want to hear a few?
Statistics like those certainly make you want to protect yourself, but fortunately, there are some pretty easy ways to do so.
One of the first ways you can prevent identity theft is to ensure that you shred any incoming credit offers you don’t intend to use and that you keep a close eye on your personal documents. While that can be harder than it sounds on a college campus, checking with the residence commission or campus police may reveal some things you hadn’t thought of. Some campuses have safe deposit boxes for students, and others have ideas about how to secure your personal paperwork while you’re on campus.
Another way you can prevent identity theft is to keep your social security number under raps. While many people used to print their social security number on their checks, have it double as their driver’s license number, and commit many other acts of needless disclosure, the idea these days is to keep it under your hat unless it is absolutely necessary.
You can also prevent identity theft while you’re shopping online. Be sure to only use a trusted computer that is virus free. Also, ensure that you clear your cookies and temporary internet files each time you browse. Firewalls and protected internet connections are essential to helping you keep your identity safe. Log out of any sites you are finished with. Finally, don’t make purchases from sites that don’t use SSL technology to protect your information. You’ll know the difference between secure and unsecure sites if you see a little padlock in the corner of your browser’s menu bar. Use sites that you trust or use a payment account like PayPal to help keep your identity a bit safer from those who would defraud you.
Once your identity has been stolen, you may be in a bit of trouble, but there are a few damage control measures you can take. First, report it right away. It will minimize the damage to your credit report. You can do this by carefully monitoring each of your accounts and requesting a copy of your credit report at least once a year. This will help tip you off to any false activity under your name. Next, close accounts as fast as you can to help lessen the damage. Finally, file a report with the campus police, the local police, and the Federal Trade Commission.
Identity theft is simply a part of today’s society, and while you can’t completely prevent it, there are things you can do to help make sure you are less of a target than others.
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