How-Protect-Yourself-Identity-TheftBack in the good old days you just had to worry about someone stealing your wallet and using your credit cards or your social security card and going on a short spending spree. The internet was supposed to make things simpler, but instead things just got a lot more complex and now you are vulnerable in ways you never would have imagined a couple decades ago.

Top Ways to Protect your Identity

Every day companies are get better and better at protecting you online, but it seems the crooks of the world are advancing at the same pace. Here are some of the top ways you can protect your identity online.

What not to Keep in your Wallet or Purse: Someone once said it’s not a good idea to keep valuables in your wallet or purse because if someone tries to take it you may be tempted to fight and get yourself hurt or killed. That’s good advice. You should also refrain from keeping your social security card in your wallet or purse as well. If your social security number is listed on your driver’s license or insurance card or checkbook request to have new documents sent with the sensitive information removed. Thieves can do a lot with just a social security number so protect yours jealously.

Keep your Credit Card Information in a Safe Place: If someone does steal your purse or wallet you may not remember the necessary contact information. It will be a lot easier contacting your credit card companies if you have a list of your cards with your card numbers and a phone number to call in case of theft. It’s a good idea to do this with your bank account or brokerage account numbers as well. Once you have written down this information keep it in a safe place.

Check your Credit Report Regularly: Most people don’t check their credit report as often as they should for fear of getting a ding on their report when the access it. If you check your own report online you’re not penalized. There are companies online that give you the first report for a dollar then charge you about $30 a month unless you cancel. Don’t do it. You can easily find sites that allow you to check your credit once a year for free and you never have to give you credit card number. When you check your report make sure everything on there belongs there. If it doesn’t, pick up the phone and set things right. If you are planning on buying a house of car you can contact the credit bureaus and request a rapid rescore once the incorrect information has been removed. That may take as much as 30 days for more. If you are buying a home or refinancing your mortgage your bank or lender can request a rapid re-score and get the results in as little as 48 hours.

Protect your Accounts Online: Most people have numerous accounts online that require a password and it can be difficult remembering every sites password. Don’t be tempted to use the same password for every site. Thieves know this and if they find one password you can bet they’ll use that password on every account you possess. If you have too many to memorize write them down and keep them in a safe location at home. When picking passwords try not to use ones that can easily be connected to you like your kids or spouses names, birthdays, or other personal things like your college or mother’s maiden name, etc… These things can all be found by a talented thief.

Final Word on Safety

Use common sense when it comes to protecting your identity. Thieves often call people and try to pass themselves off as representatives from companies you do business with. If any company you do business with asks for things like your account number or social security number it’s probably a thief. People you have accounts with will already have that sensitive information and won’t need to ask you for it. Trust your gut. If a request sounds a little off, it probably is.

Sara Wells is a tech writer and blogger. He writes on behalf of leading brands such as Identity Theft Protection from Protect Your Bubble