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Guard Your Identity! It’s Your Life

by Dr. Kathleen Hall

We secure our homes with locks, security systems, and maybe even a dog, but are we as cautious with our identities?

Every year 9 million Americans suffer form identity theft. Their personal information (like social security numbers) is used by criminals to rent a house, open credit card accounts or get a loan. This crime can hurt your credit and affect your chances of getting a job or a loan for a car, college, or a home. It also strains wallets. In 2010, U.S. households experienced $13.3 billion indirect financial loss due to identity theft (that’s $2,200 per household).

This epidemic is now affecting the young and even those that have passed on. Some report that children are 50 times more likely to have their identity stolen than adults. This is because the theft can go on for years without anyone noticing. People may not realize until the child tries to secure loans for college. And a new study also shows that 2.4 million of deceased Americans get their identity stolen each year.

These criminals get your information by rummaging through your garbage for old bills. Some may send spam email or pop-up messages, pretending to be legit companies to get your information. Other schemers steal your wallet or pretend to be telemarketers.

If you’re looking to prevent identity theft check out these Mindful Money™ tips:

  1. Stay alert.

    Continuously check all of your accounts and be alert to suspicious activity.

  2. Credit checkup.

    Periodically get a credit report to help prevent theft.

  3. Monitor yourself.

    Be wary of who you give your information to (like your SSN), especially your child’s information.

  4. Shred.

    Destroying all of your financial documents (invoices, receipts, and pre-approved credit card offers) before they go in the garbage can make a great difference.

  5. Lock down your gadgets.

    Be careful with the data that you save on your smartphone, computer, or tablet. If your device is stolen the thieves can search through saved documents for information or checked to see which usernames or passwords are saved on your computer.

  6. Embrace new technology.

    Research and consider getting a smart card also known as EMV chip cards which have theft-prevention technology.

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