Identity thieves have lots of ways to wreak havoc. Beyond clearing out your bank account or making purchases with your credit cards, with the right information they can file for your tax refund, get medical care or insurance reimbursements from your providers, create phony accounts in your name, apply for jobs, and more. It can happen to anyone, especially in today’s digital age.

Let us be your safekeeping advisor by sharing these tips for reducing your risk.


When entering a PIN or a credit card number at an ATM machine, on your phone, or even on a computer at work, be aware of who’s nearby, and make sure no one is observing the keys you’re pressing. If available, use a fingerprint scanner for identification, or activate facial recognition systems.


In many cases, store clerks don’t look at the signature block on the credit card. Rather than signing the backs of your credit cards, you can write, “See Photo ID.” In cases where they do actually verify your signature, you can get some added security by directing them to make sure you match the picture on your driver’s license or other government-issued identification.


One of the ways would-be identity thieves acquire information is by “dumpster-diving” in your garbage cans. If you simply trash bills, credit card statements, credit card receipts, ATM receipts, medical statements, or even junk-mail solicitations for credit cards and mortgages, you’re begging for trouble.
There are two ways to shred documents. One: buy a shredder and shred all papers that contain any of your personal identity information. Two: for documents on your computer (such as online bank statements,
credit card statements and more), use a file shredder software program like ShredXP to make sure your data is completely destroyed. Deleting a file merely hides it from your operating system; file shredder programs permanently erase files on your computer.

4. Destroy digital storage devices. When you sell, trade in, or dispose of a computer, hard drive, CD, DVD, or backup device, you need to take extra steps to ensure that your data is completely, utterly and irrevocably destroyed. Just deleting files or reformatting the hard drive is nowhere near enough; anyone with a little technical skill can undelete files or recover data from a formatted drive.

Again, use a product like ShredXP to make sure your digital files are completely destroyed. For a CD, DVD, or tape media, you should also physically destroy the device by breaking or shattering it before disposing of it. There are shredders designed specifically to shred CDs and DVDs.

5. Be diligent about checking statements. If you’re conscientious about checking your bank and credit statements each month, you’ll be aware if any of them don’t arrive, which can alert you that something might have been stolen from your mailbox. It can also help you ensure that all the charges, purchases or other entries on each statement match your records, so you can quickly identify and address any suspicious activity.

6. Mail your bill payments at the post office. If you aren’t using online banking to pay your bills, listen up: never leave paid bills in your mailbox to be sent out. A thief who raids your mailbox would be able to acquire a slew of critical information in one envelope – your name, address, credit account number, your bank information including the routing number and account number from the bottom of the check, and a copy of your signature from your check for forgery purpose. And that’s just for starters.

7. Encrypt your email and messaging. All the data you send in text messages or through email is at risk if you aren’t using end-to-end security encryption. With encryption, only the sender and recipient can read the information. A number of mobile apps and computer programs are available for smart phones and computers (many of them free). As always, it’s important to download them from a reputable source. For extra safety, combine encryption with fingerprint ID or a password lock on your device.


8. Require 2-factor authentication on financial and social media accounts. Add an extra layer of security to your personal online accounts beyond just signing in with your email address (or username) and password. Examples of 2-factor authentication include smartcards, USB thumb drives, encryption tokens that display randomly changing pin codes, or biometrics, such as fingerprint, retina-pattern, handwriting-style, or voice-pattern recognition. If someone does happen to obtain your password, they would still need a second piece of information to get into your account. Even social media accounts should have two-factor authentication enabled.


9. Analyze your credit report annually. The Big Three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) have joined forces to provide consumers with access to a free credit report once a year. Websites like and also provide free credit reports, as well as credit monitoring. You should review your report annually to make sure the information is accurate and to make sure there aren’t any suspicious entries, activity, or accounts that you aren’t aware of.

10. Protect your social security number. It’s highly recommended that you do not carry your social security card in your wallet with your driver’s license and other identification.

Knowing your full name, address, and full social security number — or even the last 4 digits in many cases — can let a thief assume your identity. In addition, never use your social security number as any part of a username or password, divulge it to telephone solicitors, or enter it into online forms.


11. Buyer beware! You can feel relatively secure doing business online with well-known national or global merchants, but do not conduct business online with companies you don’t know anything about! When you make online purchases, read the company’s online privacy policy first to ensure you agree with it, and to make sure you’re on a secure or encrypted website (indicated in Internet Explorer by a small padlock at the bottom right of the screen).

Have questions? Want to know more?

Reach out!  At IMA, we’re here to help safeguard your future!