Identity theft, on a large scale, has been a hot topic for at least a decade. Besides someone hacking your personal accounts or the accounts of large companies that hold information on their clients, there are many ways that an identity thief can obtain the information they require.
Being educated on what identity thieves are looking for is your first mode of protection. Listen when the experts say:
- Secure your mail box – your monthly bills are invaluable to someone looking to open second and third accounts on your utilities and cell phones, even use your frequent flyer miles and health insurance.
- Do not leave anything in your vehicle including those pesky ATM slips. Laptops, wallets, and purses, tucked under the back seat are not ‘hidden’ neither does throwing an old blanket over items in the hatch fooling anyone into believing that what is underneath is not valuable.
- Keep your SIN card in a safe place and that is not in your wallet. With this number identity thieves can open credit card account in your name, and obtain ‘replacement’ government identification and so on and so on.
- Change Passwords on your email and social media accounts often. Put it into your calendar and just do it. ‘Social Engineering’ is the technical term for someone who creates social media accounts in your name and approaches your friends, family and associates for money to get you out of a negative situation – a towed car, vacation hotel not taking your credit card or even helping pay for funeral costs.
ABC News actually drove around with an identity thief in Washington who pointed out prime targets for her and her crew. Visitors from out of state were particularly vulnerable as the identify thief knew that those cars would be loaded with all types of personal information that people travel with. Work vehicles were also enticing with their dashboards cluttered with credit card receipts, client invoices with addresses and notebooks on how to gain access to their clients homes when they are not home – alarm codes, spare keys and other information we regularly entrust to those who work around us.
Secure yourself at home by updating habits to include shredding your paper recycling (to stop binners from selling your information), creating a complex password for your wireless instead of using the default, stop answering calls from Unknown, and you are opening yourself up to a world of digital manipulation by simply downloading Torrents from questionable websites to save a few dollars.
As much as we would like to create a Top 10 list on how to protect yourself from identity theft, the frightening news is that in 2015, Acuant published a blog entitled ‘101 Ways Your Identity Can Be Stolen and Exploited’.
There are innumerable ways an identify thief can destroy your credit, your life and relationships, and more new ways are being thought of each and every day. Protect yourself diligently and do not think this happens to someone else. Ask around, chances are you know someone who has a story to tell.
Helen Siwak is Editor-in-Chief of BLUSHVancouver & EcoLuvLux Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle contributor to Daily Hive (VancityBuzz) | West Coast contributor to Retail-Insider | contributing writer for Marble Financial.