People can get ahold of your identity and exploit that information in multiple ways. Whether they take physical files or digital information, the result is the same. There are steps to take and ways to prevent identity theft from happening to you.
Understand Scam Emails and Phone Calls
Scammers will send you phishing emails or call you directly to gain access to your sensitive information (social security number, credit card information, or bank information). These scammers will use threatening tactics by impersonating law enforcement or government agencies to scare you into giving them the information they want. In these situations, call the official organization these scammers are claiming to represent. Give them no information until you can completely verify who they are.
These impersonators may also try to deceive you into purchasing gift cards and ask you to read them the activation code. Real law enforcement, government agencies, and private corporations will never ask you to buy gift cards in order to pay debts or process refunds.
Shred Important Documents
When disposing of important documentation, such as old bank statements, medical documents, and other identifying papers, it’s essential you shred them thoroughly. Identity thieves can search through your trash to find these intact documents and use them to open up credit cards and even gain access to your personal accounts. Make sure you know which documents to shred before you throw them away—if you don’t, they’ll end up in somebody’s hands.
Review and Make Notes of Accounts
Regular, thorough reviews of your various accounts, most notably your bank statements and credit score, can help you identify suspicious activity. If your bank account numbers aren’t matching up with your personal records, contact your bank so they can help you investigate these regularities. For instance, the error could stem from a purchase you didn’t record—or someone else with access to your account. Furthermore, check to see if your credit score is where it should be. A lowered credit score without explanation could mean that someone has opened a credit card in your name.
The methods that identity thieves and scammers go to may be complicated, but the ways to prevent identity theft are simple. Taking stock of your accounts, shredding important information, and being skeptical of suspicious emails and phone calls will filter out most of the ways these criminals can get your information.