We protect ourselves against identification theft by using secure websites and passwords. We secure our mail by using locked mailboxes and we don’t give our personal information to uninvited telephone callers. As family caregivers, we’ve taken measures to ensure that our loved ones have their financial information and data secured. But, do we keep our wallets protected against possible identification theft?
Steps to protect yourself against identification theft
1. Don’t keep secrets in your wallet!
It may be convenient to carry a list of passwords and PINS, but it’s risky to have all that personal data in one location. Remove spare blank checks and augment a copy of your Medicare card so that the last four digits are obliterated. That spare key for your car or home is handy, but it’s risky to carry in your wallet or purse.
2. Keep photocopies of all key information.
Copy the fronts and backs of your driver’s license, insurance cards, credit cards and any other information that should be reported lost or stolen.
3. Use a secure wallet.
Many of our credit cards, identification cards and passports have radio-frequency information chips imbedded in them. This personal information can be intercepted by savvy crooks if not properly protected. Wallets and purses that feature radio frequency identification (RFID) blocking material are widely available.
4. Put a security freeze on your credit history file.
If you aren’t anticipating opening new credit card accounts, applying for a consumer or home loan or making other large purchases that could involve new activity on your credit reports, consider having them frozen against any new activity. This may help protect against someone using your identity to make false charges against your credit history.
5. Don’t text personal or secure data.
Alert family members that if they receive a text from you requesting a banking PIN number, to double check this request via a verbal confirmation. Thieves have been known to use a stolen cell phone to text a loved one identified as “Hubs” or “Sweetheart” and casually request a PIN number. That helpful spouse may have unwittingly helped a crook access banking account information before a stolen ATM card was missed or reported.
We know what to do once a wallet or purse has been lost or stolen. We know to take steps such as: filing a police report, contacting our financial institutions to change PINs and bank accounts, notifying our health insurance provider and other entities. However, taking preventative steps to ensure that our information is kept safe may be one of the most important things we can do before a loss or theft.