Identity thieves are often very good at what they do. That’s why no one is 100 percent safe from identity theft.
But there are some very simple ways to make the criminals’ jobs a little bit harder.
Don't just throw away important documents, at work or at home.
“Shredders are cheap and easy to use at home,” said Adam Powers, CTO, at Alpharetta, Ga.-based security company Lancope.
“Most office workplaces will offer a document disposal box or shredder, which you should use for documents you throw away at work,” Powers said. ”Dumpster diving is a popular mechanism for garnering personal information.”
Don't use public or unsecured computers when accessing sensitive information.
“If a computer is not secured (using AV [anti-virus software], Firewall, etc.) then it is possible to have a keylogger or other spying software installed in the background,” said Sorin Mustaca, data security expert at Tettnang, Germany-based antivirus software maker Avira.
“This way, even if you use [secure connections with] HTTPS,” Mustaca said, “someone can get access to what you write and impersonate you.”
Never click on links that are sent to you in emails, and never go to websites that you are not sure about.
“This includes clicking on banner ads that you are not sure about,” said Chris Burchett, chief technology officer of Credant, a data-protection company based in Addison, Texas.
“The Internet is like a city,” Burchett said. “If you stay in the safe parts of town, you can be reasonably sure of your safety and the safety of your identity. But if you go to the more out-of-the-way places, you run a higher risk of encountering those who are out to steal from you.”
“Just the act of going to a bad site and then visiting a good site may enable the bad guys to steal your information or login for the good site,” he continued. “So it really is best just to not click on anything you are not sure of.”
Consider using credit cards over debit cards, especially online.
“Debit cards provide less protection than credit cards,” said Adam Levin, co-founder of Scottsdale, Ariz.’s Identity Theft 911 and San Francisco’s Credit.com. “A debit card can be the gateway to your finances.”
Also, a thief who uses your debit card instantly withdraws money from your bank account — and could leave you short of cash when you need it.
Use multiple passwords.
“If you lose one or it gets exposed, it doesn’t allow access to all of the rest of your accounts,” said Asaf Greiner, vice president of products at the Israeli Internet security company Commtouch.
Overuse of single passwords can get even security companies in trouble — one recently had its entire email database stolen when hackers found that one password opened multiple administrator accounts.