Passports, Social Security cards, land deeds and contracts, visas, birth certificates—all these documents are sensitive for maintaining your identity and preventing any kind of identity theft. If anyone you don’t know gets a hold of these documents, the consequences could be detrimental. Many of the aforementioned documents are your key to a loan, a credit card or even access to your bank account.
Thankfully, there are precautions you can take to help ensure that your sensitive information (and therefore your identity) are kept safe and sound:
Protecting Your Computer & Passwords
Your computer can be your greatest tool for managing your documents as you’re able to keep a copy of almost everything digitally -- your passwords, PIN numbers & credit card information as well. Still, you run the risk of both digital and physical hacking if your computer is left unlocked—or your passwords are written down anywhere near the computer. Make sure to memorize your passwords as well as ensure they’re always complex. Using capital letters and symbols helps.
The same goes with your information online. Ensure that you have software and virus protection so criminals and hackers aren’t able to retrieve your information digitally.
Buying a Fireproof Safe
Criminals aren’t your only worry when it comes to keeping your sensitive information protected. Fires, floods, and other disasters threaten the integrity of your information, so buying a safe isn’t a bad idea. When choosing a safe, make sure that it’ll keep your documents both waterproof and fireproof. This can save you a lot of hassle if the unexpected were to happen. Besides choosing a sturdy safe, find a secure location for it, out of plain sight. It should be accessible enough for you to grab it in a hurry but hidden enough to escape the attention of would-be burglars.
Carry Only What You Need
Your driver’s license and maybe a debit card are generally the only documents someone needs to have on them when out of the house. Unless, of course, they’re traveling out of the country. Still, many people keep their Social Security card on them—or their passport—and this is an unnecessary risk they’re taking in the case that they lose their wallet or purse.
Protecting Your Mailbox
Does your mailbox have a lock? You run the risk of identity theft when you leave your mail exposed to anyone who might open your box and take it. Sure, tampering with mail is a felony, but that doesn’t stop people from collecting critical banking information, new credit cards, and other documents that get sent through the mail.
How careful are you about disposing of your documents when you no longer need them? Credit card information and passwords you fail to shred can easily be stolen. As a general rule, you might want to consider shredding or destroying all the mail that you no longer need—even if it’s something you don’t think has personal information on it.
What Belongs in the Bank?
Banks have highly secure vaults where you can access safety deposit boxes to put your most valuable documents and items for safekeeping. Family heirlooms, wills, stocks, and bonds are all items you might want to consider keeping out of the house in the case of theft. Safety deposit boxes are the next level of high security. Though bank robberies do occur, it’s less likely criminals will be able to access these smaller, more secure vaults.
Identity theft is a scary thought, but in this day and age, it can be very easy to prevent. Identify what documents are important to you and take every precaution to help keep them safe. What protections do you have in place both online and in your house to help prevent this kind of theft?