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Best Practices to Prevent Identity Theft


Being a victim of identity theft can have severe financial consequences, but most people don't realize anything is wrong until they are making a large purchase, like a house or a car, and issues show up on their credit report.

Being a victim of identity theft can have severe financial consequences.

We often find that most people don’t realize they are a victim of identity theft until they are making a large purchase like a house or a car and issues show up on their credit report. When someone steals your personal information and uses it, it can cause havoc with your finances, reputation, and credit history. Resolving it can take a lot of time and money.

According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report, 16.6 million people experienced identify theft in 2012 with financial losses totaling $24.7 billion.

Here are some tips to help you prevent becoming a victim of identity theft:

• Review your credit report on a regular basis to ensure that you catch any potential identity theft activity. Check the credit report of your children as well; it’s possible that kids can fall victim to identity theft.

• Use unique passwords and passcodes for online accounts and banking. Use different passwords for different sites instead of just one common password. In addition to using unique passwords, use a password manager and enable dual-factor authentication wherever possible. In cases where this involves security questions (“Where did you meet your spouse?”) choose things that no one can find out about you through social media or Google.

• Review your health insurance medical claims record to ensure that no one else is using your insurance card.

• Don’t carry all your important documents with you! Leave your Social Security card, birth certificate, and passport at home.

• Don’t carry all your credit cards or any blank checks.

• Check credit card statements carefully monthly to make sure you agree with all the purchases listed.

• Be careful when you gets calls or emails asking for personal information.

• When you order new checks, do not request them to be delivered in the mail. Go directly to the branch office. This will prevent someone from intercepting your mail and using your checks.

• Shred all paper documents that have private or sensitive information.

• Chose paperless statements sent directly to your email or smartphone.

• Protect your personal computer with a strong and updated firewall, an anti-virus program, and an anti-spyware program

• If you are getting rid of your computer or cell phone, make sure to delete all your personal information; the best bet would be to restore it to factory settings.

• Be careful when you shop online. While it may be easy to store your credit card on a particular retailer’s site, it also could be vulnerable if the website is hacked. Keep a separate credit card and email account designated for online purchases; this will make it easier to track activity and also to cancel if you see any inexplicable activity.

• When you are at the ATM, make sure no one behind you who can see you type in your password; to be safe, cover the account balance information as well as the key pad.

• Educate your teenagers on how to protect themselves from identity theft. In particular, remind them not to overshare on social media (e.g., address, phone number, etc.) and what private information should of course be kept private.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
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