Shredding outdated personal documents can limit your exposure to ID theft. ID theft schemes are becoming more and more sophisticated, and vigilance in handling your personal information is now a priority.
According to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, 5,222 Missouri consumers filed ID theft complaints in 2018. At 85 complaints per 100,000 residents, Missouri ranked 31st in the nation for ID theft complaints. Missouri residents filed a total of 40,165 complaints about identity theft, fraud and other issues.
This drop in ID theft complaints in the region comes after a concerted campaign by BBB to educate consumers about identity theft through public service announcements, social media postings and digital advertising.
BBB’s Scam Tracker is another great resource for researching ID theft trends. As reported by national Scam Tracker statistics for the last year, ID theft cost consumers a median loss of $315 in 2018. Credit card was the top method of payment for losses. Go to BBB’s Scam Tracker to report ID theft scams or learn about scams that are trending in your area.
Officials recommend shredding documents that contain financial information, account numbers, PINs, birth dates, or Social Security numbers. Examples include expired ID cards, legal documents, credit card and bank statements and canceled checks.
In addition to shredding outdated or unneeded documents, BBB recommends these 10 steps to help you protect your identity:
Shred statements and applications you get in the mail that you don’t want to keep. These include credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, health forms, billing statements from utilities and phone service.
Cut up expired credit and debit cards. Make sure you cut through the numbers.
Protect your Social Security number, all account numbers and passwords. Don’t carry these numbers in your wallet. Give out personal identifiers only when absolutely necessary. Beware of unsolicited e-mails and phone calls if someone asks for the numbers.
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 printed on checks. You don’t need to include your Social Security number, driver’s license or phone number.
Monitor bank and credit card accounts for unauthorized transactions. Crooks may start with small transactions to see if you notice.
Pay attention to billing cycles. If bills don’t arrive on time, follow up with your creditors.
Don’t create obvious passwords. Avoid using your birth date, child’s name or birth date, mother’s maiden name or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
If you conduct business online, use your own computer and a secure Internet connection. A public computer or public wi-fi network is less secure.
Never use email to communicate sensitive personal information. Don’t respond to emails asking to verify your personal information and identifiers. Neither your bank, credit card company, online payment system nor the IRS will call or email asking you for confidential information. They already have it.
This year’s BBB Shred Day is sponsored by T Benus Associates LLC, Buttonwood Business Center and Columbia EDP.
For more information on protecting your identity or to check out a BBB Business Profile or Charity Review, contact BBB at www.bbb.org or 573-886-8965.
Michelle Gleba is the regional director for the BBB.