Start 2023 safely with these seven easy steps to prevent identity theft.
If you haven’t seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers, take our word for it—there’s nothing scarier than someone else pretending to be you! Especially if it involves stealing your hard-earned money and trashing your credit. In fact, identity theft is so terrifying that most Americans can’t even bring themselves to do anything about it.
We get it—a personal violation plus bureaucracy is peak nightmare fodder.
Identity theft might be horrifying, but preventing it doesn’t have to be. Here are seven easy steps you can take to prevent identity theft and keep you and your loved ones safe and sound.
1. Leave important documents at home.
With the exception of your driver’s license and medical insurance card, most important documents don’t need to travel with you. Unless you absolutely need your passport, social security card, or birth certificate, we suggest you leave them at home.
It’s stressful enough to cancel all your credit cards when your wallet goes missing—do you really want to deal with getting your government-issued documents replaced? Not to mention the nightmare of having your SS# floating around out there in the world without your say-so.
Take the essentials to the grocery store and leave the classified information at home. Trust us, the cashier at the grocery store doesn’t need to see that cool stamp from your latest trip to Greece.
2. Keep personal information and critical documents in a safe place.
If someone breaks into your house, they’re probably going to go for the jewelry and electronics before the paperwork…but you never know! The best place for any sensitive documents is always in a locked safe or cabinet. Not only will a secure and discreet storage space keep your documents safe, it’ll also make them easy for you to find when you actually need them.
Misplacing critical documents is not only worrisome—it’s also a hassle. Have you ever tried to call the government to issue a new birth certificate? If you haven’t, consider yourself warned.
3. Use strong and varied passwords for your accounts.
We’re probably not the first people to tell you to switch up your passwords. And that’s because it’s fundamental. Remembering multiple passwords can be a pain, but it’s way less of a pain than dealing with identity theft.
With over 422 million people impacted by data breaches in 2022, it’s vitally important that your login information is different across all online accounts. While your Twitter password may have been hacked, that’s not a huge deal—unless you used the same password for your bank account. In that case? You might be in for a nightmare.
If you don’t know how to create a safe and secure password, check out the guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission.They also have fantastic tips on how to protect your personal information online, especially if you’re using applications like online banking.
4. Wipe your devices before selling or dumping them.
Selling your old iPhone for extra cash? Wipe the SIM card! We keep everything on our devices these days. There’s nothing wrong with selling an old device for a bit of side money, but make sure you’re doing so safely. You want to sell the phone, not your entire identity.
Many of us no longer manually balance a checkbook, but digital financing doesn’t mean we’re off the hook. One of the best ways to protect yourself against identity theft is to regularly check your accounts.
Set reminders to look over your billing charges, check your credit reports, and review financial statements. Regular checks into your finances ensure that you see fraudulent activity ASAP and can stop it in its tracks.
While you’re in your financial accounts, you should also double-check your contact information! If you move and don’t change your banking address, there’s a good chance your next statement might end up in a stranger’s hands.
6. Pick up your mail regularly from a secure mailbox.
This might seem like common sense, but the longer your personal information is left in your mailbox, the more likely it is to be stolen. Make a habit of checking your mailbox every day—even if you’re not expecting anything. Simple letters contain powerful information. You don’t want anyone else getting their hands on compromising materials.
Additionally, make sure your mailbox is secure! If you live in an apartment building, chances are you already have a locked mailbox, but if you live in a house or other private building, look into a secure solution. Common hardware stores, like Home Depot, offer USPS-approved locking mailboxes in many different sizes. It’s a small upgrade, but it goes a long way towards protecting your identity.
7. Use a virtual mailbox or mail forwarding service.
Worried about your sensitive mail getting stolen? Do you hear horror stories about ID thieves scrounging through the recycling bin for unshredded documents? If you take advantage of a virtual mailbox or mail forwarding service, it’s simple to ensure the safety of your personal information as it travels through the mail system.
Think of Traveling Mailbox as your identity bodyguard. Every day, we’ll scan each and every piece of your mail and send you pictures. From there, you have full control. You can send instructions to our team to toss junk mail, open time-sensitive bills, and even deposit checks on your behalf.With 24/7, 365 monitoring and individual mail barcodes, we guarantee your mail will be safe.
Need those precious documents in hand? No problem at all. We also offer mail-forwarding services to anywhere your adventures take you—even if that’s just from your bedroom to your living room. You can forward all of your mail or just the essentials. It’s all about putting you in control of your mailbox so that you can enjoy a stress-free experience with maximum security.