Most people think that identity theft won't ever happen to them — so they don't take the necessary steps to protect themselves. But you should understand that in today's world it is relatively easy for sophisticated thieves to obtain all of the information they need to assume another person's identity. Learn what to look for, make smart decisions and follow the easy tips below and you'll be well on your way to protecting your identity.
- Dispose of documents properly. Most victims do not offer thieves their information, but they make it a little too easy to find. Thieves sift through trash to find documents that contain personal information so be aware of what you throw out and shred anything that might be questionable.
- Watch your mail. Thieves go through mailboxes to obtain in-coming letters and outgoing mail. Incoming mail from banks and/or credit card applications can be stolen and used to apply for loans or credit with your personal information. Likewise, out-going mail that is placed in a person's mailbox for the mailman to pick up is a great source of information for thieves. Try to mail letters directly at the post office instead of through your home mailbox.
- Protect financial information. Always destroy receipts, credit card applications, tax information, canceled checks, and mortgage information before throwing it away. This means completely shredding it or even burning it before it reaches the waste basket.
- Cut up credit cards. Even if a credit card is expired, cut it into tiny little pieces before throwing it away. Consider putting half of the pieces into one trash bag and half into another to ensure they are separated.
- Monitor your credit. Watch for anything suspicious on your credit report and if you see anything out of the ordinary, investigate it right away. Also report any stolen credit cards immediately. Don't wait to let the company know that a credit card is missing and needs to be canceled.
For more on how to protect personal information, visit your neighborhood North Country Savings Bank.