Slam Scams! Part Four: Protect Your Identity
When you were born, you were given a “name” and like it or hate it, in the years that have passed by it has been kicked around the schoolyard and written on all of your birthday cards. It is something you recognise immediately, whenever you hear it shouted from across the room or whispered quietly into your ear.
So, I ask you this, what would you be without your name? After all, your name is merely just a label given to you by someone else – surely the “unlabelled” you is just human flesh and blood, right?
Okay, I think you get the point that names are pretty serious things that form your very identity – in fact, if you don’t have a name, then society gives you one, and you’d be called John or Jane Doe!
Along with your name, there are lots of other important pieces of personal information and documentation that make you who you are (or, at least prove it to others!), and these things make up your identity.
It is critical that when you’re providing your personal information, you understand you’re giving up pieces of your identity – and this is something worth protecting at all costs. With the right pieces of your identity, a scammer can wreak havoc with your life by opening new bank accounts or accessing your existing ones, applying for credit cards and loans in your name, and many other types of fraud.
Here are some tips to help you protect your identity:
- Always ask yourself “Why do they need to know this?” – when filling out forms, think carefully about why the information is needed, and leave sections blank if you’re not provided with a valid reason to complete them. Leave it up to the person collecting the form to ask you about any missing information, and have them explain the specific reasons why it is required.
- Know where your personal information is stored – important documents like your passport and bank statements should be filed away securely in a locked cabinet. Never write down your passwords or PIN numbers.
- Make photocopies of everything in your wallet or purse – this is a great tip, especially when travelling. Ensure you give the copies to a trusted relative who can easily fax them to you in an emergency. Also, while making these photocopies, be sure to trim down the number of items you carry around – only include those that are absolutely necessary.
- Destroy personal information securely – this includes shredding physical documents like old bank statements and tax returns, as well as files on your PC. AVG PC Tuneup includes a digital file shredder, to ensure such files can’t be restored or accessed without your permission.
- Understand identity theft – there are some great tips provided by the Australian Government on protecting yourself from identity theft, including this guide called Dealing with Identity Theft.
Implementing these strategies will go a long way in assisting you to protect your identity and personal information.
In support of National Consumer Fraud Week 2012 in Australia, this post forms part of a series, inspired by SCAMwatch’s ‘Slam Scams!’ initiative. Check out the other posts in our series for additional tips and information:
Do you have any additional tips you employ to protect yourself from identity theft? Submit a comment below, or post them on our Facebook wall. We’d love to hear them!