Identity theft is a growing problem in today's society. It is relatively easy to pull off and very devastating for the victims. There are thousands of cases every year where people see the fraudulent use of their identity to rack up credit card bills and ruin their reputations and credit histories. The Internet is definitely a factor here and is often pointed to as a culprit. But it can also be used to fight back and ensure that ones privacy is maintained. Here are some simple on and offline steps to follow in order to avoid identity theft.
ONLINE PRIVACY:• Have you seen your credit report lately? You should check your credit report every 6 months to a year using one of many online credit report services.
• Use services and applications like Anonymizer or McAfee Privacy Services to control what personal information is divulged to websites.
• Install a good personal firewall (Norton, Black Ice, etc) - here are some firewall reviews.
• Use a good anti-virus software (Norton, McAfee, etc) and update signatures regularly - here are some anti-virus reviews.
• Encrypt email communications using services like Hushmail.
• Have more than one email address, use free services like Yahoo!, Hotmail, Gmail.
• Upgrade your web browser and operating system to support strong (ie 128 bit +) encryption.
• Do not divulge private information on the Internet, especially watch where you post your resumes.
OFFLINE:• Get a secure mailbox/PO Box - one that won't allow someone to go through your mail.
• Get an unlisted number and subscribe to caller id.
• Buy a shredder; destroy any and all unwanted documentation before discarding.
• Have access to legal representation to consult about your rights.
• Guard your Social Security Number (SSN).
• Diversify your assets and investments.
• Learn how to protect your customer privacy.
If you are an identity theft victim, contact your local police department ASAP and implement all of the above suggestions. Check the privacy resources section for some other excellent links. A good book like Identity Theft can also be a valuable resource as an online privacy primer.