Criminals are always looking for new ways to catch people unawares and take advantage of them. They will use any means necessary to commit whatever crime they have in mind and a lot of the technology we use everyday leaves everyone open for a possible attack. There are quite a lot of things you can do to protect yourself and your family from becoming victims.
Your medical records contain your entire family history as well as your personal contact information. It details your relationships (husband, wife, children, etc), your sexual behavior, any illnesses, diagnosis, treatments, prescriptions, you name it! Unfortunately even these records aren’t that difficult for a savvy criminal to obtain, especially since most medical providers now keep their patient records digitally. You can keep an eye on your records by visiting the Medical Information Bureau’s web site or calling them.
Always keep an eye on your credit reports. You are entitled to a free credit report once a year thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Never assume that your credit report is accurate, human beings enter the data into these reports and errors happen. Plus, if you know what is on your report you can identify possible identity theft or credit card fraud since information of that nature will be detailed in your report.
When you need to dispose of bills or bank statements – never simply throw them in the trash! Criminals frequently “dumpster dive” for these documents. Shred everything. Everything! Credit card statements, bills, old debit or credit cards, bank statements, old pay stubs, anything of that nature. Cross-cut shredders are very inexpensive and can save you a lot of hassle.
Do not fill in any personal information that you do not absolutely have to when filling out documents. If the fill-in box states that it is optional – keep it to yourself. If you must fill in something, keep it as brief as possible. For example, don’t fill in your full legal name – use your initials. A lot of junk mail comes from people filling in all of their personal data when they really did not have to.
Lastly, to keep telemarketers from calling you – simply include your name in the Do Not Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov).
Protecting yourself from victimization truly is in your hands. Making small changes in your life and keeping an eye on your assets, your information and your technology can keep you and your family from identity theft or other problems.
~ K. McMillan-Ralph, TeCHS
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