Identity protection is a broad term used to describe any type of activity that is designed to keep the proprietary information related to an individual or company from being utilized by unauthorized sources. While protecting personal and financial data has always been important, the advent of modern communications has drastically increased the need to prevent the misuse of everything from government issued identification documents to bank account information. Engaging in various strategies, including the use of theft protection services, can help minimize the chances of personal information falling into the wrong hands, and leading to a great deal of financial problems.
The process of sound identity protection begins with an understanding of which types of data is likely to be the most attractive to identity thieves. Some pieces of information are very easy to obtain from many public sources, and are not of great interest to thieves in and of themselves. Examples include a full name, current physical address and current telephone number.
Other types of personal information are less readily available, and thus are of increased interest to identity thieves. When coupled with general information found from various public sources, data of this type can be used to begin some type of identity theft. This includes your date of birth, your birthplace, and the maiden name of your mother.
Highly proprietary data is of the most use to identity thieves, and should be the main focus of your identity protection efforts. This includes government-issued data such as a Social Security number or a driver’s license number. Financial information is also highly desirable to thieves, with bank account numbers, passwords and personal identification numbers to debit cards, and credit card numbers and PINs being of particular interest.
Personal efforts at identity protection should begin with limiting access to data that is of moderate or high interest to thieves. For this reason, it is important never to provide bank account or credit card information to a source that you cannot verify as legitimate. This includes your personal access codes and passwords. Maintain a listing of who has access to this type of data, and update it regularly.
Properly disposing of documents that include proprietary information is also an important part of identity protection. Shredding documents like bank statements, old tax forms and pay stubs, expired credit cards, and even ATM receipts is always preferable to simply tossing them into the trash. Also take care to shred pre-approved credit card offers, old utility bills, and any canceled or voided checks that are in your possession.
The Internet has added a new dimension to the process of identity protection. Never respond to emails claiming that your bank or credit card account has been compromised. Financial institutions never send emails in situations of this nature. If a link is embedded in the body of the email, do not click on it. Instead, contact your bank or credit card provider and find out where you can forward the email. Your efforts may help them find the originator of the attempted fraud, and save other people from becoming victims of identity theft.
If you shop online, practicing sound identity protection is imperative. Never buy anything from a site that is not secure. You may also choose to not save your credit card information on a customer profile. While that means you have to key in the data each time you make a purchase, there is less of chance of your information being stolen if a hacker manages to break through the online retailer’s security measures.
One important part of identity protection is to review your credit reports regularly. This can allow you to make sure no one is using your information for his or her own purposes. Should an unauthorized charge appear on one or more credit reports, address the matter immediately.
Today, there are a number of identity theft protection services in operation. Some consumers find this type of protection from identity theft to be extremely helpful, while others question the effectiveness of these services. If you believe that contracting for some type of identity protection plan would be helpful in your situation, make sure you understand what is and is not provided by the plan. No matter what the circumstances, do not abandon your personal efforts to protect your identity; taking all reasonable precautions will go a long way in making sure you never experience the short-term and long-term problems that some with the theft of your important financial and personal information.