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Identity theft can wreak havoc on your credit and your life. Because of this, I get a lot of questions about how to prevent identity theft. The first thing to understand is that there is no surefire way to absolutely protect yourself against identity theft. No matter what you do, there will always be some risk of you becoming a victim. However, there are some ways you can drastically reduce your risk. The important thing to remember is that identity theft is all about access to your information. The more access thieves have to your information, the easier it is for them to steal your identity. Here are some ways you can keep your information safe:

1. Do not carry your social security card in your wallet. Many of my clients have had their identity stolen because they keep their social security card in their wallet and their wallet is lost or stolen. You probably have to keep your driver’s license in your wallet, but there’s almost no reason to carry your social security card, so keep it locked at home.

two. Don’t keep your wallet in your car when it’s parked. Again, many of my clients have their cars stolen with their wallet inside and as soon as it happens, the thieves have your address (from your driver’s license) and all of your credit cards. You can easily avoid this by carrying your wallet even if your car is parked in your driveway!

3. Lock your documents in a safe and shred anything you don’t need. Many people think that if something doesn’t have your social security number on it, it’s harmless to always throw it away. That is not true! Identity thieves grab little bits of information from anywhere to try to open accounts and rack up debt in your name. While shredding all those credit card offers can be a hassle, it goes a long way toward keeping your information safe.

Four. Shred your receipts. The receipts you get when making simple purchases can contain a ton of sensitive information, including your name and a portion of your credit card number. Throwing receipts in a public trash can gives almost anyone access to your information. Save your receipts and shred them when you get home.

5. Don’t give out your bank information over the phone.. I get so many calls from customers saying they got a phone call from someone asking for their credit card or bank account number. If you called the person and trust whoever is on the other end of the phone, you might be able to get away with making a payment over the phone (although I don’t recommend it). However, if they are calling you, there is a good chance that it is a scam. If this happens, hang up and make a payment online or by mail.

Thieves are always finding new ways to get your information so they can steal your identity, so this isn’t an exhaustive list of precautions, but hopefully following these steps can help prevent you from becoming a victim of identity theft.

-Wayne Sinnett, Esq.

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