Securing Documents: Minimize the Risk of Identity Theft

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Cybercriminals and identity thieves constantly find new ways to access and misuse personal information. According to Pew Research Center, approximately 79% of Americans worry about how companies use their personal information. 

However, phishing, smishing, and other cybercrimes are not the only way cybercriminals and identity thieves can access your personal data. Many of the important documents around you can also make you vulnerable to identity theft. 

It can be overwhelming to keep track of important documents and determine which ones pose the least risk of being a victim of identity theft

In this article, you will dive into the world of documents that contain your personal information and which document puts you at the least risk of identity theft. 

Which Document Puts You at the Least Risk of Identity Theft?

Electronically printed receipts are documents that put a person at the least risk of identity theft. This is because receipts do not contain personal information about the buyer or seller.

According to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), vendors are prohibited from printing more than the last five digits of a credit card number on a receipt. If any other digits are shown, even if only five digits are visible, vendors may be violating FACTA. 

FACTA was created in 2003 to amend the previous Fair Credit Reporting Act. It sets rules for how much credit card information can be on receipts that are printed electronically.

While receipts may be a low risk for identity theft, it still pays to be vigilant when dealing with transactions requiring credit or debit card numbers. 

List of Documents that Put You At High Risk Of Identity Theft

The likelihood of falling prey to identity theft depends on the kind of personal information, also known as “critical data,” a thief has about you. According to the American Bar Association, critical data refers to personally identifiable information. 

If a criminal obtains this data, they can exploit it to access your existing accounts. They may use your information to get additional identification documents or employment records and pose as you.

Documents that contain your critical data can put you at high risk of identity theft, especially if they are not stored securely. Critical data includes: 

  • Birth certificate
  • Social Security Number
  • Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Insurance policy number
  • Bank account number
  • Credit card number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Employer Identification Number

Critical data is found in the following documents:

  • Social Security Card(s)
  • Passport/Green Card
  • Vehicle Registration/Ownership Papers
  • ID/Driver’s License
  • Tax Returns
  • Bank/Credit Union Statements
  • Credit/Debit Card Statements
  • Mortgage Statement
  • Utility Bills
  • Health Insurance ID Card(s)

Storing these documents in a safe place can help you prevent identity theft. Using a safe, a locked cabinet, or a secure digital storage platform, can help you achieve this. 

Additionally, it is essential to regularly monitor your financial statements, credit reports, and any suspicious activities that may indicate unauthorized access to your data. Taking these steps can significantly reduce your risk of identity theft.

Protecting Your Identity Online

It can take years to recover from identity theft. Therefore, prevention is key.

To help safeguard your personal information, here are some tips to follow:

Exercise Caution With Sensitive Data.

  • Avoid sharing sensitive information through email, social media, or text messages. 
  • Verify the security and legitimacy of web pages before entering sensitive data. 
  • Be wary of public computers or unsecured wireless connections.
  • Avoid clicking on suspicious links.
  • Think carefully before sharing personal details on social media.

Use Strong Passwords and Keep Them Confidential.

  • Create long, complex passwords. 
  • Do not use the same password across multiple accounts.
  • Do not share your passwords with anyone.
  • It is okay to write down passwords as long as they are stored securely away from your computer.

Keep Your Accounts and Credit Safe

  • Monitor account activity regularly and report any discrepancies immediately.
  • Consider freezing your credit with the three major credit bureaus to restrict access to your reports.
  • Obtain your free credit report annually and review it carefully.
  • Consider freezing your child’s credit, too, as they are often targets of identity thieves.

Enhance Your Computer’s Security

  • Keep your software, including your web browser, updated with automatic updates.
  • Install legitimate antivirus and antispyware software, such as Microsoft Defender Antivirus.
  • Keep your firewall enabled at all times.
  • Secure your wireless router with a password, and use flash drives cautiously.

Following these best practices can reduce your identity theft risk and protect your personal information from potential harm.

Protecting Your Identity Offline

Safeguarding yourself against identity theft does not solely rely on online security measures. Simple, low-tech actions can also put your critical data at risk.

Offline measures to protect your critical data include: 

  • Avoid carrying your Social Security card in your wallet.
  • Be cautious of anyone looking over your shoulder when entering your PIN at an ATM.
  • Never share financial account numbers or other sensitive information in public.
  • Keep an eye out for unfamiliar transactions in your financial statements.
  • Retrieve your mail as soon as possible. 
  • Arrange a mail hold if you are away from home.
  • Discard any documents containing your critical data by shredding them. 

By implementing these offline measures, you are protecting critical data from various identity theft threats. It is essential to remain proactive in implementing these measures to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access.

Wrapping Up: Minimizing the Threat of Identity Theft

Protecting your personal information and critical data from identity theft should be your top priority. Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated and finding new ways to access and misuse personal information. Therefore, it is crucial to understand which documents pose the highest risk and take the necessary steps to secure them.

Documents that contain critical data, such as your Social Security number and tax information, can put you at high risk of identity theft. Storing these documents securely and properly disposing of them is essential. 

Furthermore, offline measures such as shredding sensitive documents and avoiding carrying your Social Security card can further enhance identity theft protection.

Following the best practices outlined in this article can significantly reduce your identity theft risk and prevent potential financial and emotional damage.

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