December is Identity Theft Awareness & Prevention Month
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It’s hard to imagine ever “celebrating” Identity Theft Awareness and Prevention Month, but consider these four facts. In the USA, we have:
- The technology available to help fight identity theft attempts
- Training opportunities available to avoid identity theft
- Criminal laws in place to bring charges against thieves
- A month dedicated to bringing awareness that focuses on prevention of identity theft
The purpose of choosing a month of awareness and prevention is so that we can be intentional about protecting our identity and personal information. Here are some helpful hints you may not have considered in your efforts to keep your identity from being stolen.
Don’t Share Information Publicly
We share our personal information with external organizations by email, phone, and digitally on a regular basis. These organizations might include financial institutions, the government, insurance companies, not-for-profit organizations, medical institutions, the DMV, retailers, and many others.
If you need to reveal personal information, only do so if you have initiated the contact. Identity thieves who initiate contact with you may pose as bank employees, healthcare providers, or government officials with the hope of getting information about you. Phishing is a common yet sophisticated strategy designed to obtain sensitive information without you realizing it, and it’s constantly evolving to circumvent public awareness and updated security measures. A successful phisher will attempt to make you feel confident that the person on the other end is an authorized representative of the organization they purport to be from.
Use Smart Passwords and Security Questions
When you create a password, avoid using something obvious like your mother’s maiden name, birth date, or numbers from your personal IDs. These passwords are easier to discover than more secure types of passwords that use a combination of letters, numbers and characters that don’t spell common words.
There is a true story of a person who used, “my favorite Beatle” as a security question. Unfortunately, the financial institution’s security system automatically permitted the user four guesses before an account is locked out and the owner’s account was easily hacked.
Destroy Personal Information
Make sure that any documents that have any personal information, including numbers, are shredded before discarding. Consider tearing shipping labels off of packages and boxes that you receive from online retailers. The collective information gleaned from a variety of documents, packages or itineraries might be enough information to steal your identity. Bank statements, credit cards, medical documents, prescriptions, credit card offers, and even junk mail with your personal information on it should be shredded prior to discarding in either the garbage or recycling.
Leave Sensitive Information off of Checks
Social security numbers and phone numbers are not necessary and should be left off of personal checks. Checks only require these five items:
- Date the check is written
- Name of the person or organization the payment is for
- Amount of payment in both numeric and alphabetic form
- Signature of the account owner authorizes the check
- Name of the issuing bank and MICR information printed along the bottom
No other information is required. Also, a personal check has a lifespan of six months, after which it becomes invalid.
Consult a Reputable Shredding Company
Did you know that you can make sure your personal information is destroyed past the point of being read or reassembled by using the services of an affordable professional shredding company? Choose a NAID AAA Certified, locally-owned shredding company for the utmost in information security.
CI Information Management offers a full suite of shredding services to residents and businesses in Southeastern and Central Washington and Northeastern Oregon. Call us 509-586-6090 or complete the form on this page so we can work with you to help prevent the theft of your identity.