Although when we think of identity theft it’s easy to visualize the computer hackers that dominate the headlines, many people don’t take into consideration that the risk of identity theft is just as high when it comes to a lost or stolen purse or wallet. Of all the cases of identity theft that have a known cause, online and offline identity theft is almost equal, with almost half resulting from a missing wallet or purse according to a study carried out by insurance company Travellers. However, you don’t need to wait for your wallet or purse to go missing or for malware to infect your computer before taking action in the form of preventative steps in order to protect your identity both online and offline. We’ve put together a list of effective ways in which you can protect yourself from this crime.
In today’s digital world, it’s easy to underestimate the need to protect your identity from theft when not on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. With so many identity, financial, banking and other personal details stored online, it’s not difficult to forget about the important and personal details that we carry with us most of the time in a wallet or purse.
Some items are too risky to be carried in a wallet or purse, as in the event of loss or theft could make it extremely easy for your identity to be stolen if they fall into the wrong hands. Your Social Security card, PIN numbers or password, blank checks, spare home or car keys and even your Medicare card are risky items to be carrying around, and in most cases are best left at a safe place at home.
Make a photocopy of the front and back of every card that you keep in your wallet, including your driver’s license, credit cards, insurance cards, and even your library card – you’d be surprised at the amount of times that thieves have racked up library fines from borrowing books. Keep these copies at home in a safe place in order to have a record of all your account and card numbers and your back-of-card security codes.
If you find that your wallet or purse has gone missing, you should alert your credit card issuers immediately and request a change of account number. It’s important that you make it clear that you’re not requesting closure of the account, as accidentally closing the account could cause issues for you that will have an effect on your credit score and also be of inconvenience to you.
You should also alert your bank to change any PIN numbers associated with cards that were in your wallet, request new cards and cancel the old ones. It may be a good idea to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit file, and file a report at both the police department in your hometown and the one where your wallet went missing if in a different area. You should also contact your DMV regarding a replacement driver’s license and alert them to be aware of any fraud.
Although staying safe online is something that most of us do take seriously, it’s still worth mentioning a few things that you should be ensuring that you do in order to prevent identity theft from occurring online.
Antivirus software should be a must on whichever computing devices that you use, from your Apple Mac or PC to your tablet and your smartphone. Windows and Android devices are at more risk of viruses and malware than others, and are more of a target for hackers involved in identity theft. Antivirus software is often free or quite inexpensive. Click here for more information on specially designed antivirus software which you can use in order to prevent viruses and malware.
If you do a lot of shopping online, you’ll be used to entering your credit card details – however, are you always sure that you are safe? When online shopping the use of a secure payment system such as PayPal is recommended by most experts as an effective way to prevent identity theft, and it’s imperative that you check the security status of any online store that you use.
Which steps do you take to ensure that your identity is protected both online and offline? If you’d like to pass on any further advice, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.