Unfortunately, it isn't very hard for a person with bad intentions to gather bits of personal identifying information and create fake accounts in a victim's name. And often, the victim's behaviors could lead to the identity theft in the first place.
Pay attention to how you're handling your personal identification numbers. If you have any of the following five bad habits, you might be making yourself a target for identity theft and fraud.
• Carrying your Social Security card-Most institutions have moved away from using Social Security numbers as an identifying number. Leave your Social Security card at home, and only give out the number in limited circumstances.
• Purchasing online using unsecured websites-Always be a little careful when shopping online. Use websites of trusted brands, and look for a lock symbol in either the URL address bar, or the status bar along the bottom of the browser. Also look for https:// in the URL address, instead of just http://, which means you're shopping on a secure website.
• Not shredding documents-Receipts, account statements, bills and any other paperwork with identifying information on it must be shredded before going into the recycling bin.
• Using Wi-Fi-Wi-Fi access is great if you need directions to a store or want to check your email. But it can easily be hacked, and talented hackers can use the Wi-Fi to find personal data stored on your mobile phone or tablet.
• Receiving bills in the mail-The paperless technology used by banks, credit card providers and many service industries helps protect your identity because it provides one less avenue for thieves to gain access to your information. Be sure to protect your online accounts with strong passwords.
If you have one bad habit you want to be sure to break this year, make it your bad habit of leaving your personal identifiers out in the open for thieves to find and exploit.