7 Common Mistakes That Lead to ID Theft
Having your identification used fraudulently can be devastating. While undoing the damage can be both costly and time consuming, perhaps it is the psychological effects that can be the most damaging. Victims of identity theft will never be sure that they are not missing out on opportunities due to erroneous bad credit reports or even a false criminal record. Unfortunately, many people continue to make simple mistakes that can make it easier for those who would compromise their identity.
Here are 7 costly mistakes that can lead to your identity being stolen:
- Logging Into Private Accounts From A Shared Computer. When you use a computer at a hotel, library, or Internet cafe, you will never know what software was installed. For example, a very simple program called a keylogger could be running that will copy all of the user names and passwords that you type.
- Not Utilizing Internet Mail Security. Your email system might actually contain a more advanced level of security that you are not aware of. For example, Google's GMail service allows users to opt for multi-factor security. This means that when you log in from a new computer, Google actually makes an automated call to your cell phone, issuing you a temporary code.
- Failing To Erase Your Hard Drive When You Sell You Computer. If you are like most people, you probably have a host of personally identifiable information contained on your computer's hard drive. When it comes time to upgrade your computer, simply deleting files is not sufficient. Computer security experts will tell you that deleting a file does not erase it, it merely removes it from the list of files. Identity thieves can use simple tools to "undelete" files. You must either destroy the drive physically or use dedicated tools that overwrite deleted files multiple times.
- Falling Victim To Phishing Attacks. Phishing refers to an attempt to gain private information by disseminating a fraudulent request. Email messages can appear to be from a trusted source, but it is never a good idea to respond to unsolicited messages that ask you to log in to a web page. When logging into a sensitive account, always open up a new browser window and type in the address. Never click on a link from an email.
- Being Deceived By A Social Hack. Social hacking is the practice of simply asking a user for a user's login or other personal information. People can contact you over the telephone or even in person, claiming to be a representative of a trusted company. Before you give out any information, you should always initiate the contact yourself by calling a known telephone number for that organization.
- Not Shredding Documents. So called dumpster diving is still the easiest way to obtain sensitive information that can be used for identity theft. With many organizations only requiring a utility bill to prove residency, it is easy to see how someone can find everything they need to impersonate you from a few minutes looking through your trash. Shred everything, or sign up for electronic bill statements and automatic bill pay
- Giving Out More Information Than Necessary. Even when the person who is requesting information from you is who he or she purports to be, that doesn't mean that you should freely give out any personal information. When making a purchase, you always have the option of politely declining to give out your address, phone number or any other personal data. If the merchant has a problem with that, you can simply choose to take your business elsewhere, as there is no way to ensure the security of your information once you release it.
While we can never protect ourselves from all crimes, including identity theft, we can ovoid some practices to reduce the possibility of becoming a victim.
Jason D. Steele is personal finance writer and a consumer advocate.He specializes in helping people eliminate credit card debt and maximize rewards. His work can be found at personal finance sites like Money Crashers, Ask Mr Credit Card, and at his home page.
Photo by Eastlake Times via Flickr