Identity theft isn’t always at the top of our worries list (which seems to annoyingly expand on a daily basis), but as the years go on, the problem only seems to get worse. The more advanced our security systems get, the more wily identity thieves seem to become. Identity theft is probably more common than you think, so check out some common ways thieves tend to gain access to funds and personal information and ensure you don’t become a part of the statistic.
Filing Your Taxes
Imagine this: You’re doing your duty as a law-abiding American citizen, sitting with a financial advisor to determine any taxes you might owe to the government (or how much you might receive back), when to your surprise, the IRS informs you that you’ve already filed. That’s right, fake tax returns happen every year, and many identity thieves have found great success filing tax returns under other people’s names and collecting the returns they were owed. If this happens to you, and you’re able to prove to the IRS that a fake return was filed, it could take months or years to finally receive the return that was rightfully yours. It’s important to keep an eye on your taxes and be sure to file as soon as you’re able to shorten the window of time in which fake personas may file them for you.
Giving Too Much Away
When we think about the dark side of social media and online interactions, many of us may conjure up images of the aptly titled “Craigslist Killer”, and shy away from posting our personal information to “friends” that may be strangers in disguise behind a foreign computer screen. While many social media outlets will prompt you to ender personal information including your full name, birth date, address, and phone number, it’s in your best interest to leave as many of these queries blank as possible. Even the most minimal personal information tidbits can be used by wily con artists to hack into bank accounts, credit cards, and more. It’s best to follow a “less is more” policy when entering information onto your Facebook or Instagram. If you have children, be certain that they aren’t posting this types of information on their social media profiles as well.
If You Rent a Home
Many Americans are choosing to rent instead of purchase a home these days, as financial constraints and cultural shifts have seen a desire for the flexibility that a home rental can offer. Unfortunately, identity thieves have caught onto this trend. Be careful when searching through listings on sites like HotPads.com, and do your research before meeting up with a potential landlord. Never wire money before seeing the property in person, as there’s no way to get it back (hint, hint: just the word “wire” should tip you off that a prospective landlord might not be who they say they are). Landlords will be asking you for access to a collection of bits of personal information, including your address and social security number. It’s never a bad idea to request a prospective landlord provide proof their screening service. If they don’t use one, consider asking them to use something like MySmartMove landlord credit checks so that your information stays in safe hands.
Invest in a Shredder
Luckily, these days documents are increasingly available online, decreasing the amount of important papers that we must keep and store hidden away from wandering, criminal eyes. However, there are still the occasional physical documents that contain our personal information, so it’s important to properly dispose of these papers so they don’t fall into the wrong hands. Purchasing a high-quality shredder is a good life investment, and you’ll find the peace of mind that comes with knowing your information is safe from prying hands is well worth the cost.
Identity theft can have lasting consequences that affect your life for years, including a damaged credit score, so it’s important to take precautions and prevent identity thieves from gaining easy access to your information.