Identity theft is considered to be one of the fastest growing crimes across the country with an expanding industry of $50 billion a year. Many Americans, including business owners, believe that the main cause of identity theft is from the Internet as a result of viruses or malware. However, the grand majority of identity theft cases are due to the theft of physical information.
Below are three of the most common ways in which a person or corporate business’ identity is stolen and how you can reduce your risk of identity theft.
- Stolen mail
Your mail often contains sensitive information such as tax forms, bank account statements, and pre-approved credit cards that thieves can use should you leave them in your mailbox for an extended period of time or fail to shred before throwing away.
At your home, be sure to take in your mail every day if you do not have a locked mail box. Tear up any sensitive information before you throw it out to keep it safe from any thieves who may be scouring your dumpster for potential opportunities.
If you run a business, ensure that you are using scheduled shredding periodically in order to keep not only your business’ information safe, but also your clients and your employees.
- Stolen wallets and credit cards
Stolen credit cards is possibly the most common form of identity theft. If you have lost your purse, wallet, or card somewhere be sure to call your bank or credit card provider in order to either put a hold on your account or to cancel the card. Do this before you begin to search public places for the card because as likely as it is for a thief to take your card it is also likely that they may have stolen the information, but left the card alone.
It’s better to cancel your card and wait a week for a new one than to leave your card active while you search for it only to later realize your funds have been drained from your account.
- Stolen information from close friends or employees
Your friends, family, and employees are some of people closest to you who have the most access to your personal and sensitive information. Even if you believe your information is safe at home or filed away in the office, it’s important to keep your documents under lock and key.
Perform scheduled shredding routinely in the office in order to ensure that sensitive information cannot easily be swept up by employees or visitors. Professional shredding companies will also keep your scheduled shredding information safe from dumpster-divers by recycling your sensitive information in-house rather than setting bags of sensitive documents outside the door for recycling trucks.
Identity theft affects thousands of Americans annually. For businesses, it can lead to millions of dollars in losses. To reduce your risk of identity theft, be conscious of the information you leave around or throw away without paper shredding. Keep important documents safe and secure in a document storage facility or in a residential safe.
And, most importantly, report theft or lost credit cards as soon as possible. The quicker you report the crime, the easier it will be for authorities to find evidence and catch your criminal.