Identity theft is becoming an increasingly common issue as we conduct more and more of our business electronically. Here are four simple ways that you can make your identity more secure, and avoid some of the most common scams and attacks.
1. Never Share your Social Security Number Online
You should never be asked to provide your social security number in a public place online. Don’t give it on forums or over instant messages. If you are asked to provide proof of your identity, perhaps because you’re applying for a job, then provide that information over a secure channel, where only the person responsible for the HR or payroll process can access it.
2. Never Provide Personal Details on the Phone if Someone Calls You
If you place a call to your bank, yes, you will need to provide information to prove you are who you say you are. However, if the bank calls you, then they already know who you are. Don’t answer “security questions” when you receive an unsolicited call. One common scam is for people to call as many numbers as possible and try to harvest information from those numbers. If they get even one or two people who hand over information out of hundreds of calls, that’s pretty lucrative for them.
3. Don’t Open Attachments You Weren’t Expecting
If you receive an email with an attachment, don’t open it unless you were expecting that document, even if you recognize the sender. The sender’s email account could have been hacked, or the email address could have been faked. Don’t take chances. It would only take a moment to call or instant message the sender and confirm the attachment. In a similar vein, if you’re sent an email that asks you to log in to a website and do something, open your web browser, type in the address of the website, and log in that way – don’t click the link in the email.
4. Shred Your Mail
Before you dispose of paper mail, shred it, or rip it up into little pieces if you don’t have a shredder. Dumpster diving isn’t exactly high tech, but it’s a common attack vector for scammers, even in the digital age. If they can’t read your mail, they can’t collect the information that they need to impersonate you and commit financial fraud.