Secure Your Paperwork
1. Opt for electronic statements. Thieves can steal bank account statements, bills and other documents from your home mailbox. Instead, says Paige Hanson, chief of identity education at Norton LifeLock, choose electronic statements that get delivered via email or directly into your online banking account. Bonus: You may be able to avoid paper statement fees or get billing discounts by going electronic.
2. Keep a shredder handy. Shred all bills and financial documents to keep thieves from fishing them out of your trash. Hanson recommends using a cross-cut shredder, which cuts the paper into smaller pieces than a strip-cut shredder.
Keep your personal information safe
3. Freeze your credit report. This keeps creditors and others from “running credit” on you, protecting you from scammers who try to use your information to set up phony accounts. It’s now free, but you need to contact three credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. You can always unfreeze it temporarily to allow legitimate access to your credit, such as when you apply for a loan.
4. Stop entering sweepstakes. You may be enticed by the vacation prize at the mall kiosk, but before you enter personal details on the form, ask, “What are you going to do with it?” advises Amy Nofziger, director of AARP’s Fraud Watch Network helpline.
5. Stop giving out your Social Security number. Some businesses, such as banks, credit agencies and government agencies, legitimately need your Social Security number for reporting purposes. But that’s about it. “I often hear this question, ‘If my doctor doesn’t need my SSN, why are they asking for it?’ ” Nofziger says. “I have been to many new doctors, and I have never once been asked for the SSN after I left the question blank on the form.”