Do you remember a time when you could simply tear up a piece of paper and toss it in the trash? You could carry your Social Security card in your wallet? It’s amazing how much the world has changed in the last 20 years, that a person can “Google” your name and zero in on the exact location of your home, complete with Street View images. Your identity is no longer safe. At this moment, there is at least one individual looking to steal your identification and use all of your personal information for their own private use. And almost always, by the time you realize that something is askew … the damage is done. It can take years and thousands of dollars to rectify.

 Because it is vitally important to protect all aspects of your identity, below is a list of tips on how to keep it safe:

 1. Use a paper shredder. Carefully watch what you throw out. Shred any papers or statements that contain personal facts about you, including your date of birth and any of the following numbers: social security, driver's license, credit card, bank, and all retirement / investment accounts.

 2. Watch your credit report. Order a copy of your credit report from the three main credit reporting agencies:

Check each for unfamiliar activity and errors. Report problems. Many agencies offer a notification feature that will alert you of any changes, or inquiries. Reports may be free based upon your state, or available for a small fee

3. Keep your personal documents safe. Keep your social security card, birth certificate, passport, and seldom used credit cards in a safe deposit box or other secure receptacle to keep them from falling into the wrong hands. When traveling, do not take your entire life with you in your wallet or purse.

4. PINs and passwords. Routinely change your bank / credit card PIN numbers and computer passwords. Do not make it easy for an imposter to guess them. For example, don't use your date of birth, pet's name, your kid's name, etc. Some suggestions include a combination of letter and numbers, and where possible a unique character like question mark, or greater than sign.

5. Search Your Name on Google/Bing/Yahoo: It is not a bad idea to type your name into the various search engines and see what information is appearing as part of the search results. If you feel that too much of your personal identity information is on the internet, you do have the ability to ask for the information to be removed. Links for each of the major search engines:

 There are also various websites and forums that can give you tips on how to remove your data from search engines and websites such as SpokeO and Snapchat.  Such as https://www.accountkiller.com/en/

6. Keep an Eye on the Latest Cyber Crimes and Scams: Receive an e-mail that you think may be bogus? Does a link look suspicious? Here are resources that you help you identify if something is fraudulent.

7. Report an Identity Theft. If your data becomes compromised, the first step in recovery is to report it to the proper authorities AND informing your insurance agency.

8. Explore the Option of Privacy/Cyber-Liabiity Insurance – It’s not just for businesses. Policies exist for individual also. We can help you with that one.

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