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How To Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

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Who should read this article:

Anyone over the age of 18 with a good credit history should learn how to protect themselves against identity thieves.


Identity theft is a very pervasive problem, especially since the advent of the internet. It is very easy for identity thieves to find you, your credit card numbers, your social security number, and other personal information.

Let's learn how to make it hard for a thief to steal your identity and possibly ruin your credit rating.

How to protect yourself:


1. If you use your credit card at stores or gas stations, be sure to take the receipt home with you. Tear it up(or better yet, shred it) and dispose of it properly. Most credit card receipts do not display the whole your entire credit number anymore, but you still don't want to leave anything with your name on it lying around.

2. If you receive credit card offers in the mail, immediately shred them. If a identity thief gets hold of this offer, he can pretend that he is you and charge on your new credit card.

3. Discourage your credit card company from sending you blank checks. This is especially true if you have an unlocked mail box. What's to keep someone from raiding your mail box and finding those blank checks? If your credit card company insists on sending you blank checks, simply shred and dispose of them on receipt.

4. Think seriously about becoming a member of a credit history protection agency. We are members of Lifelock. You've probably seen their ads on TV. Besides Lifelock, there are three or four other reputable companies you can consider. Just type "lifelock" or "credit history protection" or "protect your social security number" into your favorite search engine. There are a few sites that will give ratings of each company. Just beware that the site owner is not an affiliate for each credit protection company!

5. Never give out any personal information over the phone or online. If someone emails you with an offer, but you have to give personal information first, don't do it! If you have a phone solicitor on the line, ask him to send you something in writing. Do not buy anything over the phone.

6. Never carry your social security card in your wallet. If it is stolen, your ssn can now be used to identify someone else! It's amazing to me that social security cards do not have the holder's photo on it, like driver's licenses. Keep your social security card in a fire-proof box in your home. The same goes for your passport, if you have one.


7. Be wary of ANY "something for nothing" offers in your email. You will be easy prey if you are out of work and "business opportunities" start finding their way to your email account. Take it from someone who knows: I've fallen for many of these online "money making opportunities" and none of them have panned out yet. Of course, no matter how rich the seller says he has become, he still has to charge you. If you buy his "success kit", realize that he now has your credit card number.

I have had my credit card number stolen twice online: once from someone in Brazil and another from Russia. I had bought something from each of them and they thanked me by buying computers, clothing and a nice watch for themselves using my credit card number!

8. If you are trying to be an affiliate seller online, be sure the affiliate owner has an account with Clickbank or Commission Junction. That way, whenever you sell something, you get paid by Clickbank or Commission Junction, two reputable affiliate networks. Neither will have any of your personal information.

9. Be sure you have a good virus and phishing protection program running on your computer. I have Windows Live One Care. This program came with my computer and it is excellent. It fully protects against virus and phishing sites without interfering with what you are doing or slowing your system down. If I go to a site that raises a red flag, Windows Live will try to stop me from accessing it and help me clean my system right away.

10. Along the same lines, you might want to consider restricting "cookies" from websites that you either don't know well or don't trust. Cookies can help the website track where you go online and you may not want this. On Internet Explorer, just click on "Tools", then "Internet Options".

Now click on the "Security" tab. Click on "Trusted Sites". Now click on the "Sites" button and enter in the addresses of websites that you know you can trust. Be sure your security level is set to "medium" at a minimum.

Next, click on "Restricted Sites". If you are not sure what sites might harm your computer, then set the security level to "High". Setting your security level to high will give you the maximum safeguards and security features.

Thirdly, click on the "Privacy" tab. Be sure that it is set for "Medium" at a minimum. A medium setting will block third-party cookies that:

a. Don't have a privacy policy
b. Save information that be used to contact you or track you without your consent.

In this same tab, be sure you that the "Turn on Pop-Up Blocker" is checked.


Use your common sense and good judgement, especially online. Give out no personal information except your credit card number if you are buying something. When you buy anything online, make sure the site has a Verisign security rating. If you are in any doubt at all, do not buy the item from that site.

You can restrict your buying to well known stores with an online presence, such as Sears, Old Navy, Borders and the like. There are also internet stores with only an online presence that you can feel comfortable with, places like and No reputable online website or offline store with an online presence can afford any problems with their customers.

Online or offline, remember to not volunteer any personal information that someone does not need to know. That includes your home address, your social security card, where you work, how much you make, and so on. If anyone tells you they need your credit card number or social security number for "verification" or to "verify your identity", hang up immediately.

Find out how identity theft can affect your children by clicking on the blog links below.

John J. Soares
How To Protect Your Child's Identity
Is Your Child's SSN Safe From Identity Thieves?
Blog Information Profile for jsoares