Identity Thief: 9 Ways to Protect Your Idenity

By Megan Capone      

I spent 111 minutes in a dark theater with my bestie and a box of SnoCaps last night. The movie? Identity Thief with Jason Bateman and (my favorite) Melissa McCarthy. The verdict? Hilarious!

At its heart, this R-rated comedy (for violence and language) is a buddy comedy/road film. Here's a synopsis from Fandango (Get 20% off $25 in Movie tickets when you use your Visa):

Florida resident Diana (Melissa McCarthy) has a luxurious lifestyle as the queen of retail, buying whatever strikes her fancy -- and it's all free, thanks to Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Jason Bateman), a guy from Denver whose identity she stole. With just one week to track down Diana before his world implodes, the real Sandy heads south to confront the unapologetic con artist and bring her back to Denver so that he can clear his name and restore his shattered credit rating.

The movie starts off kind of slow, but quickly speeds up when Sandy receives a call from Diana saying someone attempted to steal his identity. She tells him about an identity protection service and asks him for his name, number, and social security number. Diana then takes all this information and makes credit cards in Sandy's name and proceeds to destroy his credit.

I visably cringed at this scene. My extensive shopping background has taught me how important it is to keep your personal information private. I know how easy it is to have you identity stolen with just a few pieces of personal information.

That's not to say that you shouldn't trust an established idenity protection service. In most cases this type of service can provide more advanced identiy protection than you can achieve on your own. But don't fall for Diana's trick - don't give out personal private information over the phone. No matter what. Do your homework and make sure that the service is private, secure and accredited by the Better Business Bureau. LifeLock Identity Theft Protection is all three, so visit their site to check their prices and plans. (LifeLock currently has a 30-Day free trial + 10% Off your final purchase of LifeLock ULTIMATE through Feb 28, 2013.)

I'll leave you with some of LifeLock's techniques to help protect your identity right now:

  1. Watch your credit score: If a thief got a hold of your personal information, how would you know? One way is to keep a close eye on your credit report and watch for changes in your score.
    www.annualcreditreport.com

  2. Don't share your personal information: Before providing any personal information, especially at doctors' offices and other places of business, ask why the information is needed. Accidental disclosures on the business end can put you at risk for identity theft.

  3. Lock up your government IDs: Lost or stolen identification are increasingly difficult to replace. When not in use, store your government-issued identification (Social Security Card, Passport) in a safe place, preferably not on your person.

  4. Shred and destroy your documents: Dumpster diving is a proven method for thieves to gain access to your personal information by stealing discarded information. Shred it and forget it.

  5. Guard your mail: Protect your mailbox from thieves by replacing unlocked versions with a secure model. This simple task helps to reduce the chances of mail theft. As an added precaution, place your mail on hold while you travel.

  6. Shop smart: Online shopping provides many conveniences, but be sure to look for a security seal and https in the URL when it comes time to enter any personal information. This quick check can help stop you from being phished and disclosing your identity on a counterfeit website.

  7. Strengthen your passwords: Changing your passwords often and using numbers, symbols, and uppercase letters can help protect you and your accounts from being hacked.

  8. Stay alert (Skimming, Shoulder Surfers, Strange ATMs, Phishing, SMSishing, Vishing): High-tech thieves are busy coming up with inventive ways to get at your personal information, including skimming your credit card during check out, shoulder surfing to snap a picture of your account, and phishing for your identity via email, websites, texting, or phone calls.

  9. Protect your children's information: These days, you are not the only person in your family at risk. More and more youth identities are being stolen so that thieves can commit employment or benefit-related fraud and get away with it for years before you even realize it.