According to statistics from 2006, identity theft happens to more than eight million people a year. As a result, there are a slew of companies offering services to prevent it. There ARE measures that the average person can take though that will help prevent identity fraud. This includes protecting your privacy,and your personal information, shredding mail and financial documents, and monitoring your credit diligently. You might also consider purchasing identity theft insurance. It won't stop it from happening, but it will prevent scammers from taking over your savings and ruining your credit.
How to Guard Your Privacy
Most people don't know their rights with their privacy information, nor do they know how companies treat their personal data. Most people are aware that they shouldn't give out personal information through an emailed link or through a telemarketer. But, it is still a challenge for most people when they are faced with an "official" sounding company who is asking for personal information. Of course, identity thieves are aware of this - they are impersonating collections agencies, good will agencies, and medical facilities. When someone is on the phone pressuring you that a loved one is in danger, or your house may be foreclosed on, you are faced with conflicting feelings when they are asking for your social security number.
Be Sure to Shred Your Mail
You should shred all financial documents that you don't need for your taxes - bank and credit card statements, offers for credit cards that come in your name, utility bills, etc. Purchase a crosscut shredder for the most security. By shredding documents this way, it will decrease the chance that someone will steal your documents from your information.
Always Monitor Your Credit Reports
A new law that took effect a few years ago entitles every consumer to one free annual credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax. If you choose to space your reports, you can obtain a credit report every four months. Monitoring this information on your credit report is a huge step in keeping identity theft from happening to you.
Consider Purchasing Identity Theft Insurance
Identity theft insurance won't help prevent this type of fraud. It can, however, make getting back on track after it occurs. Typically a policy will cover out of pocket expenses, as well as any charges you are responsible for. Most companies won't find you personally responsible for charges made by an identity thief, but it's best to check to make sure. This insurance is very reasonable- priced between $25 to $50 a year for between $15,000 to $20,000 in coverage.