Q: What Steps Can I Take To Avoid Identity Theft?
A: To decrease your chances of falling victim to identity theft, you should shred sensitive documents before discarding them, never carry your social security card with you, and say no to anyone strangers who solicit you over the phone or via email and ask for your personal data.
Identity Theft In the Workplace is On the Rise
Additionally, don’t be careless about leaving your purse or wallet around others – even if they’re co-workers, close friends or family members. Believe it or not, one of the most common places where identity theft occurs is in the home and at work. You might think nothing of letting your handbag sit on your desk in your office cubicle, because you are very trusting of your fellow colleagues on the job.
They may, in fact, be trustworthy. But what about visitors to the office, the delivery guy who brings pizza for lunch, the cleaning lady who comes by your desk regularly, and any number of other individuals who have access to your work environment? Lock up your wallet, purse, or handbag. Better safe than sorry.
Other Ways to Thwart Identity Theft
Aside from safeguarding your personal data, you can also use the following steps to help deter, detect or minimize the impact of identity theft:
- Monitor your credit regularly
- Use fraud alerts
- Initiate a credit freeze
- Consider buying ID theft insurance
Watch Out for Red Flags
Another way to protect yourself is to take a cue from the companies you do business, and learn what they’re doing to safeguard your personal information. In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission launched a website to help organizations covered by “Red Flag Rules” design and implement identity theft prevention programs.
Red Flag Rules require a host of businesses and organizations – such as your creditors and financial institutions – to create written programs to identify the warning signs of identity theft, spot those warning signs, and take the proper steps to respond to those “Red Flags.”
The purpose of Red Flags Rules is to slash the impact and frequency of identity theft. To learn more, read the publication “Fighting Fraud with the Red Flags Rule: A How-To Guide for Business,” available at www.ftc.gov/redflagsrule.