Tips to Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft is quite common these days.  In an age where our personal lives are scattered over the Internet and our finances are stored in an online database, there is a good chance that you may be the victim some day.

According to a recent report conducted by the Federal Trade Commission, more than nine million Americans were victims of identity theft, with credit card fraud being second highest in that category.  More than 250,000 Americans filed a complaint with identity theft.

There are a variety of ways your identity could be stolen or duplicated, but there are also a number of methods to protect yourself from the scammers.


Whether it’s your debit card pin number or your email protection, a password is one of the common aspects to steal when committing the act of ID theft.

A new study released by the online security firm, SplashData, called “Worst Passwords of the Year,” millions of Internet users used the same generic passwords.  Some of the common passwords that were hacked: “password,” “passw0rd,” “123456,” “abc123,” “Michael” and many other common characters.

The best way to avoid having your password stolen is to use both a complex password and pin that is difficult to hack but also easy for you to remember.

For an online password, take advantage of special characters, such as “_”, “@” or a space.  For example, “!ce_cream_1%”.

Create multiple passwords, change them frequently and do not divulge it to anyone.

Social Security Number Protection

Never give out your Social Security Number, even as a form of identification.  This is dangerous.  The only time you should ever provide your Social Security Number is when you are hired for a job and you must give your employer the number for tax purposes.

Pin Watchers

Do you ever notice the person in front of you watching the individual in front of them inserting their debt card pin number?  Be very careful of these people.  Always cover your pin number when you are at the grocery store, at an ATM or at a bank.

You never know who these people are.  It’s best to be cautious.

Credit Check

In some countries it costs money to check your credit, but it’s worth it to see if anyone is using your identity to get loans in Burkina Faso or Botswana.  Once you review your credit report, you can verify the accuracy of the data.

Note, though, that it is free in the United States.

Digital Information

It is easy to be neglectful of your information on your personal computer.

In order to avoid being hacked and having your data compromised, purchase a memory stick to store your information and place the card in a safe place.  You can even use online services to store your data.

Remember, if you plan to sell your computer, erase everything.  Make sure there is absolutely no trace of you.


You may be one of the millions of people who receive pre-approved credit card applications in the mail on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, this is one of the key ways the scammers can grab hold of your personal information.

Purchase a shredder, and shred every piece of junk mail.  Also, if you receive bills, statements or other personal information that you want to discard, shred that too.

Never simply rip up the paper and throw it in the garbage.


We are all prone to viruses and hacking.  We must protect ourselves from this and there is huge competition in the anti-virus market.  There are free ones, but to receive premium protection, you will have to shell out some dollars.

ID Cards

Never carry your entire ID, credit or debit cards with you.  If you’re heading out to the gym or grocery store, just carry items that you know you will definitely need.  Not only will this protect your privacy, but also prevent you from spending money.

Providing Information on Cards

If you travel to a basketball game, a restaurant or a grocery store, you are sometimes asked about their service.  It is either a survey on the card or conducted online and your name, number, address and/or email is required.

Try to avoid these as much as possible.  Although it is great to provide feedback, your identity is much more important.

Phishing Emails

Phishing is defined by Google as, “The activity of defrauding an online account holder of financial information by posing as a legitimate company.”

You may receive emails disguised as your financial institution requiring you to verify your personal information, such as name, account number, Social Security Number, etc.  Avoid these emails, delete them and/or report them to your branch.

Disguising Wealth

If you have recently purchased a television, computer or a sound system, try to break down the box and disguise it as something else.  This would help camouflage expensive purchases to garbage men, who would automatically assume that you are affluent.