Keeping your personal information safe from online hackers and scammers requires continual vigilance. Criminals can be lurking anywhere, looking for opportunities to get their hands on personal information such as Social Security numbers, passwords, and banking information. Knowing about typical ways that scammers try to steal your identity can help you take steps to minimize your exposure to the risks of identity theft.
Scammers use a variety of methods to try to steal personal information, so it's crucial to protect yourself on all fronts, starting with the papers that go in and out of your home. Using a locked mailbox will help prevent criminals from stealing your mail. It's also important to shred sensitive papers before you toss them into the trash, since criminals have been known to rifle through garbage in search of personal information. Important documents that you need to hold onto should be kept safely locked away in a safe in your home or in a safe deposit box at a bank.
Next, make sure to always review all banking and credit card statements when they arrive in the mail. If you notice any suspicious activity connected with an account, notify the bank immediately. If you ever miss receiving a scheduled statement, this is also a reason to call the bank: Sometimes, criminals will intercept an account and change the mailing address. While you're securing your banking information, make sure that you don't include your driver's license number or Social Security number on your printed checks. And never allow a credit card number to be recorded on a check.
It's also important to protect your debit and credit cards. Never keep an ATM card and its PIN together in your wallet, since this would give anyone access to your account if your wallet is ever lost or stolen. Memorize your PINs whenever possible, and keep a copy of your PINs in a locked storage box. It's also a good idea to leave credit cards at home unless you expect to be using them. This helps you avoid potential hassles if you ever lose your wallet or have it stolen, since you'll have fewer things to report lost or stolen.
Phone calls can also be used to perpetrate scams. Do not give out personal or credit card information over the phone unless you have first confirmed that the person calling is who they say they are. If you're at all unsure, tell them you'll call them back, hang up, and then find their phone number from a trustworthy source (like your credit card or bank statement or the company's website) and call that number.