Identity thieves don’t want you to read this article.
They’ve made an entire industry out of living off of other peoples’ good names. And when you know their typical tricks, stealing your identity is much harder.
Unfortunately, not enough people know what puts their identities at risk for theft. And that has helped keep identity theft the No. 1 consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission for 15 years running. Do you like the idea of thieves using your name to make money and cause you financial headaches? Of course not. So take a minute to make sure you’re aware of five foolish behaviors that identity thieves love and how to fix them.
To identity thieves, your trash can and recycling bin are seen as an “inbox.” They appreciate when you toss out anything with personally identifying information — especially credit card offers, bank statements, insurance-related materials, and medical statements or records.
There are entire organizations dedicated to computer hacking and scams. So if you’re using a simple password or not employing the right security measures on your computers, smartphones and tablet devices, your information is at a much greater risk. It’s like leaving a door open with money sitting on a table just inside.
Your house and office have a treasure trove of documents with identifying information and important IDs, including passports, Social Security cards, birth certificates and much more. If they’re not locked up, anyone with access to your house could take a quick smartphone picture or even grab them.
Your credit reports include any credit- or loan-related accounts that are opened in your name. Even if you don’t need to apply for credit or a home or car loan, it’s important to ensure that your credit is clean and your credit score is as high as possible for when you do need it.
A Social Security number is like a master key. Once identity thieves have it, along with a few other personal details, they can establish credit or potentially gain access to your existing accounts. That’s why you want to limit how and where you share your Social Security number.
By taking these steps, you can rest more easily knowing you’re not an easy target for identity theft.
This article originally appeared on Credit.com and was written by Brett Montgomery.