We all know identity theft is happening every second of every day, but who knows what to do to stop it? To do this we need to work together and make everyone aware of the problems . The knowledge and capability of these criminals far outweighs that of the general public so raising awareness is our main weapon in stopping identity theft. What we have to do is make it as hard as possible for these criminals and use every resource available. Most importantly be quick to spot any signs of identity theft.Listed below are basic safety tips:Be careful about giving out personal information. Whether on the phone, by mail, or on the Internet, never give anyone your credit card number, or other personal information for a purpose you don’t understand. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible. Never give any financial details to any person you are not 100% sure are authentic and trusted.Protect your post. To stop a thief from going through your rubbish or recycling bin to get your personal information, tear or shred your receipts, credit applications, insurance forms, bank statements, expired charge cards, and credit offers. Deposit outgoing post in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Promptly remove post from your postbox after it’s delivered. If you plan to go away, contact your postal service to stop them leaving letters in your mail box.Guard your credit cards. Minimise the information and the number of cards you carry in your wallet. If you lose a card, contact the credit fraud division of the credit card company. If you apply for a new credit card and it doesn’t arrive in a reasonable period, contact the issuer. Watch cashiers when you give them your card for a purchase. Also, when you receive a new card, sign it in permanent ink and activate it immediately.Pay attention to billing cycles. Contact creditors immediately if your bills arrive late. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your credit card account and changed your billing address.Reduce your number of bank accounts and credit cards. Less accounts mean less avenues for hackers. All dormant accounts should be closed.Safeguard personal information in your home. Especially if you are having service work done in your home, employ outside help, or have a flat mate.Find out who has access to your information at work. Be sure to verify that records are kept in a secure location, and are accessible only to employees who have a legitimate reason to access it.Passwords. All passwords for computers, mobile phone, online forums etc must be complex not involving common words. Never have two the same and continually change passwords.Cheque washing. To avoid “cheque washing” (someone gets hold of one of your cheques and fills out their own details) use a Uniball Gel Ink pen as the ink permeates the cheque paper preventing it from being washed.ATM’s. Avoid any ATm that doesn’t ‘look or feel’ right. Follow your gut instinct.Complain. Complain to your credit card company when it sends you unsolicited free cheques encouraging you to transfer existing balances.Date of birth. Never reveal your date and place of birth to anyone you do not know and trustPassport, driving license and birth certificate. Do not hand over your passport, driving licence, birth or marriage certificate to anyone unless you are absolutely certain of the need to do so. Your birth certificate in particular needs to be kept safe as it provides valuable information to identity thieves. Your birth certificate is only likely to be required by the Passport Office, your pension company or an insurance companyMarketing. Consider opting out of allowing your details to be used for marketing from the Electoral Roll – put a tick in the “Edited Register” column.Re-direct mail. When you move make sure your mail is re-directed for at least 12 months.Phone number. Make sure your phone number is ex directory.Too good to be true. Any offer you receive that appears to be too good to be true probably is. Ignore.Wallet/Purse. Don’t leave address, phone numbers etc in your wallet or purse.
These are physical steps you can take.
Below are online safety principles:Shop safely online. Practice safe shopping online. Shop only from secure sites. Make sure that the url in the address bar starts with https:// (not http://) and has a picture of a padlock or an unbroken key in the bottom right corner. Consider using a separate credit card for online purchases as it’s easier to keep track of fraudulent charges. Make sure you log off properly and don’t make online purchases from internet cafes or WiFi hotspots or public computers.Old computers. When disposing of old computers or laptops erase all the data from the hard disk at least 3 times and check that there are no CDs left in the CD Drive. If you are throwing the computer out remove and physically destroy the hard diskEmails. Never put confidential information in an email – emails are not secure and can be interceptedAnti virus programs. Use good anti-virus software and keep it updatedUpdates. Install operating system updatesDownloads. Don’t download anything unless you’re sure it’s safeSpy killer. Use Spy Killer and Ad Killer softwarePop ups. Read any pop-ups carefully and answer “No”Firewall. Use firewall and anti malware softwareEncryption. Make sure your wireless internet connection is encryptedWifi. Do not make online purchases or deal with your online banking from an internet cafe or WiFi hotspot. Turn off your wireless connection as soon as you can when using a WiFi hotspot.Password. Do not use the same PIN or password everywhere. If you have a choice of password reminder, do not select your place of birth – use a different reminder. If you have no other choice use a lie that you will remember, such as a relative’s place of birth. Improve your password discipline – don’t use pet’s names or dates of birth. Use a mixture of letters and numbersMultiple email addresses. Consider using at least 3 email addresses, one for friends and family, one for financial sites and one for general useFriend locating. Be aware of the dangers of using websites to locate old friends or colleaguesDetails. Consider removing your details from websites that list your name and addressSuspicious emails. Do not respond to suspicious emails – just delete them. Assume that all emails asking for personal information are frauds. Do not click on links in emails that purport to be from your bank or building society
The problem is that the criminals are very intelligent and while these are good principles they only really scratch the service.
If possible we believe that investing in an identity theft service is money well spent. These services not only offer additional security but are extremely quick to alert their members of any suspicious activity within their personal finances and profiles. This is essential to stop serious damage.