Identity theft is much simpler for criminals who have access to five key pieces of data about you. Don’t make it easy for these online and shoulder-surfing thieves. Guard your information like you do your pocketbook and you won’t be fighting legal battles with your bank or creditors due to such losses.
FBI suspicious activity reports
In the last decade, from April 1, 1996 to Sept. 30, 2007, almost 900,000 suspicious activity reports have crossed the desks of fraud investigators within the Federal Bureau of Law Enforcement (FBI), according to the country’s premier crime-fighting agency.
But you don’t have to be one of those statistics. Be proactive in preventing identity and online thefts by guarding your personal data. It will prevent you from suffering the loss of monies from payroll checks, credit and debit cards, as well as damage to your credit report.
5 pieces of personal data: Your mother’s name
You might think nothing of divulging your mother’s maiden name to a new friend in a social setting when establishing ties in a new neighborhood. But think twice before doing it, as your mother’s maiden name is one key piece of data organizations use to verify your identity.
Universities use this data, banks use it, and so do other organizations and institutions. It helps them differentiate between you and others who have the same first and last name.
5 pieces of personal data: Your birth date
In America it seems like everyone celebrates each others birthday. That means a potential criminal can easily gain access to your birthday month and day. It isn’t hard to guess at a year after that, with some people blurting out their age.
But your birth date is a key piece of personal data used for verification purposes with banks and others.
Some restaurants even give you a free meal for your birthday, providing you show your license, which gives them–or their employee, who you may not be able to trust–the month, day, year and your address to boot.
5 pieces of personal data: Your address
Thieves know that if they want to access your financial accounts they will likely be asked to verify your physical address. Generally a post office box won’t do.
Guard against someone getting your home address by not leaving envelopes addressed to it lying face up in your vehicle, on top of a work desk where strangers are assisted, or thrown in trash containers away from your home or while at the office.
5 pieces of personal data: Your phone number
Unless you have an unpublished number, or a cell phone number, anyone can locate your personal home address if they have your home phone number. That can put you at risk for thefts that take place at home.
People can also gather information about you from your utility company or other businesses by being able to provide that phone number verification detail. So don’t give your number out to anyone who doesn’t really have a legitimate need for it.
If you have a home phone and a cell, give the cell number to anyone you don’t want to have access to your home address or personal financial data, and use the home number as a verification number for utilities and banks.
5 pieces of personal data: Your social security number
Crown Financial Ministries recommends you memorize your social security number, never carry it with you on your person, and get your health insurance company to allow you to use another identification number besides it.
Your SS number is one of the most important pieces of personal data that needs to be safeguarded, as it is used with financial institutions as well as credit bureau reporting. Memorization is the best way to ensure it isn’t pulled out in front of strangers when you need it and requesting only the last four digits be placed on any correspondence will help as well.
Resources: “Financial Institution Fraud and Failure Report,” FBI.gov and “Identity Theft,” Crown Financial Ministries.com