How to prevent identity theft

The cost of identity theft to consumers, banks, credit card firms, stores and other businesses is estimated to be $2.5 billion (CDN)

Take preventative measures now and you will not have to cry later when you have your identity stolen.

It’s like backing up your work on external hard drives.

(FB Read: How to buy an external hard drive)

Do it now and you won’t cry later when your computer crashes.

(FB Read: How to back up your work).

Shred everything.


Credit card offers, old bank statements—anything with a social security number, account number, or personal information on it. Use a cross-cut shredder, which you can generally pick up for less than $100.

Give out as little information about yourself as possible.

If you are being asked for your birthdate, real email address, or other details, ask why and if it’s mandatory.

Don’t provide it if you don’t have to.

Even when you are in stores, don’t give them your postal code because they use it for marketing purposes to start papering the neighbourhood more with specific deals, and quite frankly, I feel weird giving out info without knowing what it’s for.

Only provide sensitive personal information (including financial information like credit card numbers and bank account numbers) through secure means. If you’re filling out an online form, look for the padlock in the bottom right corner of you screen.

Don’t ever send your information in an email even to a friend.

Be ultra-careful with your Social Insurance Number (SIN). It’s an important key to your identity, especially in credit reports and computer databases.

Know how your personal information will be used. Ask if you don’t.

Even security questions like your mom’s maiden name is fairly easy to find out. So don’t think that you are the only one that knows it.

Choose difficult passwords and have many on hand

I wrote a whole post about how to choose passwords here. FB Read: Passwords and everything about it.

Social networking sites like LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook are good for keeping in touch but are absolutely amazing treasure troves for identity thieves. Here’s what you can do to control it:

Don’t put your birthday and date.

Read and understand the privacy policies. They tell you what happens to your personal information and what privacy options you have.

Use the privacy controls available, and restrict who can see your full profile etc.

Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know in real life. Online, how do you know they are who they say they are?

Be careful about what you post online.

Think about what information you’re putting out there, and the implications of it. A photo of you and your friends hanging out, for instance, could reveal a lot – like where you live, where you go to school, or the car you drive, and a smart person can put it all together in no time.

By the way, even just good common sense tells you NOT to post pictures of yourself getting drunk as a skunk at a party and smoking weed. That’s just dumb.

Never trust an email with links in it

This type of identity theft is called “Phishing”.

FB Read: Don’t click on bank URLs that look like they are Phishing Emails.

If you’re following up on an alarming email that appears to come from one of your financial institutions, either call that institution directly (using the phone number on its website, not the phone number in the email) or type the actual URL (or website address) into a web browser, instead of clicking on links in emails.

Even if it comes from a friend, they could have had a worm infect their computer and automatically send out emails with links in them.

Your bank in particular, is never, EVER going to send you an email asking for your personal information and providing a handy link for you to click.

Neither, for that matter, will eBay, PayPal, or your credit card issuer.


Guard your social security number with your life.

That means not carrying your social security card in your wallet and asking organizations to assign a different identifier.

If it’s on your health insurance card, make a copy of it and black out the number, then carry the copy with you.

Monitor your online accounts.

If you’re one of those people who never examines bank or credit card statements and pays your bills on auto-pilot, then you have to be extra careful.

Identity thieves will often charge something small to an account to see if it goes through, and if they’re successful, they’re off to the races—with your account number in hand.

Be careful in real life.

I always shield my PIN when I’m typing it in. Call me paranoid if you want, but anyone in line or even security guards watching on cameras on the screen can see you type in your number.

Don’t talk so loudly on your cellphone or try to pay bills in busy areas, people may be recording down your account number, your password, answers to your security questions, whatever.

You just NEVER KNOW. So be careful.

And don’t log on to public computers used by many, or even on company laptops to do personal banking or secure transactions.

Any other tips?

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.