(BBB) – Did you know that protecting your identity is largely in your own hands? Many identity theft victims can trace the theft to something that was stolen from their own possession. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.
So, here’s the first rule: If you don’t need it, shred it – responsibly. The Better Business Bureau of North Alabama is hosting four shred day events this spring in Huntsville, Florence, Decatur, and Cullman. Consumers and businesses can protect their identities by shredding up to three large bags or boxes of sensitive documents for free.
In addition to the shred day events, here are some ways to protect yourself from identify theft.
Be careful with your personal information. Treat your personal information like the valuable commodity it is. Make sure you shred any documents that have your bank account information, Social Security/Social Insurance number, or other personal information. These include credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, health forms, and billing statements from utilities and phone service. Cut up expired credit and debit cards, making sure to cut through the numbers, before you dispose of them.
Secure personal documents at home. If you have roommates, employ outside help or have contractors in your home, make sure personal documents are in a safe place – preferably under lock and key – and not lying out in plain sight. Minimize personal information on checks. You don’t need to include your Social Security number, driver’s license, or phone number.
Be alert to phishing attempts. Scammers are sophisticated and their phishing attempts may come via email, text, social media message, even phone calls. Be suspicious of any unsolicited communication asking you for personal information. Whether it’s a supposed tech support call, an offer for a free cruise, or a charity plea, they may really be after your personal information.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, it is very important to act quickly. For more information on how to stop and recover from identity theft, visit identitytheft.gov
For details about the BBB of North Alabama’s shred day events, click here. To report a scam, visit bbb.org/scamtracker