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5 Identity Theft Jackpots and How You Can Safeguard Against Them

Identity theft is nothing new, and yet it still manages to cost victims billions of dollars globally each year—not to mention the time and hassle recovering a stolen identity. The good news is that there are simple things, like choosing a decent password, that you can do to deter identity thieves. Here are the top 5 information jackpots for identity thieves, along with helpful tips on what you can do right now to protect yourself.

1. Your Trash Can
Trash bags and recycling bins continue to be targets for identity thieves. Dumpster diving may sound old school, but it’s still an easy way for identity thieves to get access to your personal information.
  • Get a shredder and use it. A basic model only costs $20 to $30.
  • Get into the habit of shredding things before throwing them out: especially bank statements, expired credit cards, utility bills, cell phone bills, paycheck stubs, old boarding passes and travel itineraries, and ATM receipts.
  • Check your envelopes. Anything with your name and address on it needs to be shredded, too.

2. Your Phone
Odds are that you’re carrying a lot more in your phone than just your contact list.
  • Have a password-protected lock on your home screen, a standard feature on smartphones. Bonus points if your phone has location tracking (“find my phone” feature).
  • Public Wi-Fi networks are not secure, so avoid checking your bank accounts or doing your online shopping from the local coffee shop or at the airport.
  • Avoid storing sensitive information on your phone—storing passwords or login information in a note-taking app is bad news.

3. The PIN Pad
Point-of-purchase schemes—skimming devices, keystroke loggers, ATM hacking—emerge all the time.
  • When making a purchase, keep your debit or credit card in sight at all times.
  • Use your hand to block the buttons when entering your PIN. Even if no one is behind you, a camera could be watching.
  • Choose a good PIN and avoid PINs based on your personal information, like your telephone number, address, or birthday. Never use “1234.”
  • Vary your PIN, especially if you use the same one for your debit card and cell phone password.

4. Your Mailbox
Mail tampering is a low-tech but relatively easy way for identity thieves to compromise your personal information.
  • Know your billing cycles. A late statement or bill that never arrives could be a sign of mail tampering.
  • If you suddenly stop receiving mail, check with the post office. Identity thieves sometimes request a change of address to illegally reroute your mail to a different location.
  • Use a mailbox with a locking system to deter thieves.

5. Your Computer
Every so often a virus or scam comes along that trips us up. Stay one step ahead of scammers. 
  • Keep your firewall, anti-virus, and operating system software up-to-date. Even new computers need protection. 
  • Enable spam filters on your email accounts. 
  • Watch for sketchy links and emails. Ignore these emails: suspicious password reset requests, unexpected tracking numbers, or requests for your personal information via email.
  • Don’t overshare on social media. Your followers don’t need to know the year you were born or when you’re away from home. Keep your accounts private and make sure you’re not accidentally broadcasting sensitive information.

By being aware of the top 5 information jackpots and by implementing these simple strategies, you can keep identity thieves at bay.