Unfortunately, identity theft is a big problem in Arizona. This is largely due to a lot of Americans choosing to retire in the Grand Canyon State. Sadly, identity thieves love to prey on senior citizens. However, consumers of every age can protect themselves against these identity scammers. To get you started, here are the top 7 ways to protect yourself against identity theft.

Watch out for scams

Some scammers are really good at what they do, so sometimes it’s hard to avoid becoming a victim. Identity thieves operating in Arizona might pretend to be representatives from your bank, government employees, or even members of your own family. Knowing this, you should never give out personal information over the phone or online unless you’re 100 percent sure about the recipient’s identity.

Don’t ever be afraid to ask a lot of questions about why someone needs your info, especially if they seem impatient. Remember that scam artists will often try to rush their victims so that they can get your information before you even realize what you’re doing. If you’re ever in doubt about the identity of someone who’s trying to contact you, it’s best to do some research before proceeding. P.S. The IRS will NEVER contact you by telephone.  (My mom received such a call).  Moreover, your bank nor credit card company will never ask you for your password or entire social security number.  If you get someone posing as representatives from either of these companies, HANG UP!

Be careful with what you share on social media

On a site like Facebook, you might disclose your full name, date of birth, the names of family members, and your dog’s name. This can be dangerous because if you’re like a lot of people, at least some of your passwords are based on this information. By making these things known to the public, you may unknowingly be making it easier for identity thieves to hack into your accounts.  Personally, I never share my birthday on line.  I would rather be safe than accumulate a lot of “Likes.”

Use strong passwords that aren’t easy to guess

It’s convenient to have a password that you can easily remember.  Many people like to use something that involves their dog’s name or their status as a Phoenix Suns fan. Incidentally, it’s also convenient for the identity thief who’s been spying on your social media accounts. Passwords that contain personal information are too easy for other people to guess. It’s safer to use random combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols.

Keep important cards and documents in a very safe place

Let’s start with your Social Security card. This is possibly your most sensitive document, and it should be kept safe at all times. Never carry your Social Security card with you. If someone asks for your Social Security Number, have a clear understanding of why they need it before giving it out. In fact, you should usually decline to give this information out unless the requestor has a compelling reason for it.  As for credit cards, bank cards, your driver’s license, and passport, always keep them within sight. Never give anyone a chance to grab these items when you’re not looking.

Invest in a paper shredder and use it often

In Arizona, identity thieves have been known to go through trash in order to steal personal information. Think about it. If you’re just tossing out bills, bank statements, and even credit card offers, you’re putting your information out there for anyone who cares to look. This is why a document shredder can be your best friend. Turning sensitive documents into useless piles of garbage is one of the best ways to stop identity theft in its tracks. You can even take your documents to your local UPS or FedEx store and have them shredded for around $1.00 per pound.

Use extra caution when shopping online and in stores

Plenty of consumers in Arizona have discovered the convenience of online shopping. From the comfort of your home, you can order practically anything you need. Just make sure to only share payment information with secure sites that feature the little green lock next to the URL.

Even when you’re out shopping at a brick and mortar store, it’s a good idea to be aware of anyone around you when you’re checking out. You never know when an identity thief might be lurking behind you, trying to get a glimpse of your credit card or driver’s license. Stopping to get gas? If you pay at the pump, you should pay attention to the card reader. If it looks suspicious in any way, don’t use it. Sometimes fraudsters install “shimmers” over real card readers in order to steal your account information.

Check your financial statements and credit reports frequently

Taking every possible precaution sometimes isn’t enough to prevent identity theft. For this reason, you should regularly check your bank statements and credit reports for fraudulent activity. These days, most consumers have 24/7 access to their bank accounts via their phones. This makes it easy to take a look at banking activity at least once a day.

As for your credit reports, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) entitles you to one free copy of your credit report from each of the major credit reporting bureaus every twelve months. Luckily, it isn’t hard to request credit reports from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Just go to www.annualcreditreport.com and fill out one form to get all three.

If, after going over your credit reports, you notice signs of identity theft, you don’t have to deal with the issue alone. As an Arizona resident, you can get a FREE credit repair lawyer to help you clean up your credit reports as quickly as possible.

Don’t let debt collections and errors on your credit reports bring your credit score down. At Credit Repair Lawyers of America, we’ve been cleaning up credit reports for consumers since 2008 for free.

Let’s start the conversation about what we can do for your credit. Set up your free consultation today by calling Attorney Gary Nitzkin at (480) 771-6001 or sending him a message through our contact page.

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