Despite what you might think, identity theft is not the sole preserve of the cyber-criminal. In fact, recent statistics show that over 68% of identity fraud occurs offline and the most common way for a criminal to get hold of your personal data is from stolen wallets and purses.
Keep an eye on your wallet and purse
Most of us keep a lot of personal documents in our wallets and purses. Not only credit and debit cards, but often driving licenses, social security cards, ID cards, birth certificates and passports.
Keeping these documents together in one place might seem convenient to you, but it is every bit as convenient to an identity thief. Since pickpocketing is a very fruitful and popular exercise among fraudsters and thieves, avoid carrying anything you do not need with you when you go out.
However, you also need to be aware that a home intruder will have a field day if they find any (or especially a collection) of these documents. If you have a hidden and secure safe then this is a good bet. If not, the best option is to keep the items stored away separately in unexpected places.
Keep tabs on your inbound and outbound mail
We all know that a huge pile of mail on the doormat or spilling out of a mailbox is a dead giveaway that you are away from home. Most of us ask a family member to come by and pick it up or put it out of view in a bid not to entice opportunists into our empty property.
This is a good start but if there is personal or financial information in that mail and it does fall into the wrong hands it could be more costly than your average break-in. Start by shredding documents that you no longer need. If you are away from home and have someone picking up your mail, make sure they have somewhere secure for it. If you notice that a bank statement is late, contact your bank to check if it has been sent and notify them if it may have been stolen.
If you need to send a document that includes personal and financial data, take it to the post office directly and use a tracking or signed-for service to ensure it gets to the right recipient.
Keep your ID numbers safe (National Insurance/ Social Security Number)
In some countries, an ID number is required to open a bank account or obtain further documentation and information. Just as you would never give out this number to an unsolicited caller, neither should you allow it to be found by an identity thief. Don’t keep it in your wallet or purse and don’t leave it where it can easily be found by an intruder.
Request electronic bank notices
Most banks let you choose to receive statements electronically rather than by mail. This is advisable as you don’t want these details in the wrong hands.
A regular review of your bank accounts can help you detect any signs of fraud. If you notice any payment that you don’t recognise, act immediately. Many cases start with a small transaction as a kind of test for the perpetrator. Ignore it and you might have just given someone the green light to empty your account.
Under the laws of most countries, credit reference agencies are obligated to send you a report for free or a small fee upon request without having to sign up to a costly long-term plan and it’s a great way of ensuring there are no new lines of credit being enjoyed by a fraudster at your expense.
If you don’t want to sponsor a spending spree for your bag-snatcher or house burglar, it is worth taking that little extra time and care to ensure you documents are safe, separate and secure.
This includes credit and banks cards, car licenses, passports, ID numbers and even bills.
Even if you have a great insurance policy, it can take a long time to undo the damage caused to your credit rating and to receive funds that have been stolen and by taking a few simple steps to keep things tidy, you could save time and heartache in the long run.