Organize to Protect Your Identity

Paperwork on a cluttered desk

Data breach. Customer information stolen. Identity theft. Those words regularly appear in the news, making you, the consumer, angry. You wonder why companies can’t seem to figure it out–either stop collecting personal information or protect it!

Despite companies’ security efforts, the risk of identity theft isn’t going away. Criminals world-wide seem to be one step ahead. In 2016, over $16 billion was stolen from consumers, around $1,300 per victim. While that amount may seem low (in perspective), the time involved is not. Theft caught early might take eight hours to resolve; for many, however, hundreds of hours are spent reclaiming their identity. One in four never does.

However gratifying it is to point fingers and put all the blame on a company’s lack of protection, you share the responsibility to protect your identity. Not every case of identity theft is due to a data breach. Often, identity theft is closer to home.

Think of the pre-approved credit card offers you receive in the mail. Do you shred them or rip them in a few pieces and toss in the trash? What do you do with old tax returns and bank statements when it’s time to purge? How about last year’s car registration and insurance card? Almost everything you throw in the trash with personal information on it is a potential source of identity theft.

Fortunately, small changes in how you deal with paper mean increased security of your personal information. First, get organized. Clear the piles on the desk. Set up a filing system. Know what you have and where it is. Second, destroy everything that doesn’t need to be kept. Invest in a cross-cut shredder or take old papers to a shredding company. Consider digitizing documents with password protection. Last, opt-out of pre-approved offers through the credit bureaus. Go paperless for statements whenever possible (also reduces filing time and mail fraud).

Make the effort to safeguard your own information. Not only will you be more organized, you could reduce your time and effort if the worst should happen.