By now you’ve heard the commercials for identity protection services like LifeLock. Is it worth you shelling out your bucks for peace of mind?
The good news is that there are plenty of common sense ways to prevent your ID from being stolen or misused. Here are ten starters:
- Shred important documents once you no longer need them. Even papers as seemingly innocent as the power bill can be exploited by fraudsters who claim to be you. A shredder is a great investment, and much less costly than an ID protection service.
- Be careful where you shop online. If a store doesn’t appear to be genuine, it probably isn’t. Established companies, either online or in person, are your best bet for a safe transaction.
- Install anti-spyware software on your computer. Some programs record keystrokes that can reveal your sensitive information to hackers. This software is hidden as part of another (a Trojan horse), or subliminally installed from a webpage. Many anti-spyware programs are free, but research to see if it has good reviews.
- Don’t lend out your credit card. It should never leave your person, except for the brief moments when it is swiped.
- Check your credit report. annualcreditreport.com is the only true free credit site. Look for any discrepancies or confusing charges. Be sure to report any problems immediately to the credit bureau.
- Watch out for phishing sites. These are emails and web pages that claim to be from legitimate banks, lenders, or ISPs. No real institution will demand sensitive info without warning or reason.
- Keep your Social Security number a secret. Never use it as an ID. Shred any documents that contain it.
- Keep tabs on your purse or wallet. It seems obvious, but it helps. Cards and data from stolen wallets can be a goldmine for ID thieves.
- Don’t use obvious passwords. Any passwords you use should have a combination of numbers, letters and characters. Never use your pet’s name, street name, or your username itself— hackers recognize these as typical choices.
- Don’t share sensitive information over the phone or through e-mail. There’s always the possibility that someone is listening in.
Anyway: my name is Alexander Carl. I am a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I spent four blissful years earning a degree in Communication Studies. Now I face the real world of economic downturns, student loans, and the absence of “academic” camaraderie.
Yet I refuse to be bummed. My economic philosophy is to live simply, save, and maximize whatever I can. Consumer culture is undeniably pervasive, but you don’t have to sell your soul to co-exist with it— there is great power from using your economic resources wisely.
I started writing when I figured out how to hold a pencil. Since then I’ve written short stories, poetry, screenplays, and have blogged. In fact, three of my screenplays have been produced into short films, two of which I directed. I’m no stranger to the media, having served as a DJ at a freeform radio station and worked as a crew member for live TV.
Pastimes include traveling (I’ll visit virtually anywhere), swimming, jogging, hiking, and hunkering down with a good movie.
Overall I’m a peaceful person, though not in a creepy New Agey way. I get my energy from music, good conversation, and the outdoors (I was an active Boy Scout, earning my Eagle). I consider myself “inquisitive” and “wry”, and for the sake of autobiography I’ll assume that I am.