By: Audrey Thomas
About five years ago, my husband’s identity was stolen–for the second time. I was shocked by the amount of time and energy we spent resolving this fiasco. Ultimately, we were lucky: Our credit rating was restored and eight criminals went to prison, a few with 20-year sentences.
I wasted countless hours dealing with identity theft, but you can avoid it! Here are seven steps to prevent that added stress and wasted time:
- Buy a paper shredder–one that also shreds credit cards–and keep it close to where you sort incoming mail. I have one in my home office and another next to my recycling bin; EVERYTHING with our name and address gets shredded.
- Use a separate credit card for online purchases. If an online retailer has a security breach, it will take less time to deal with.
- Get identity theft insurance–it’s inexpensive and provides incredible peace of mind.
- Check your credit report annually. Read through your report to ensure that all the listed accounts are actually yours.
- Check your children’s and elderly parents’ credit scores–they are often victims of identity theft without even knowing it.
- Access your financial records (banking, retirement, investments) only on secure networks–coffee shops and hotels are NOT secure.
- When you receive an offer online, remember: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
An estimated 15.4 million consumers were hit with some kind of identity theft in 2016, up from 13.1 million the year before. Don’t be one of them. Put the steps above into practice to protect yourself AND your time.