Anyone who knows me knows that I have an uncanny fear of identity theft. I tend to hoard mail and old financial information for years, because I don’t want it to get into the wrong hands. The last time I moved, I had dressers filled with all sorts of papers to throw out. In my frenetic state, I wanted to throw it all into one big bag and out the door. But this would have been a huge mistake that could have caused me to lose my most valuable asset –my identity.
When people are in the midst of moving, they are usually so overwhelmed that they forget to protect themselves from identity theft – even though they know, and normally practice, proper ways to protect themselves. Here are some common mistakes people make when they are moving:
Throwing away documents with sensitive data. Always be sure to shred any and all documents displaying information about yourself, your family, your financials and anything else that is directly related to your personal identity.
Forgetting to change address with the post office. It’s easy to put off your change of address, but there are consequences for delaying this chore. Should any important information be sent via mail to your old address, anyone can take it and use it to their advantage. Even if you were close to your old neighbors, or sold your house to the nicest people, you don’t ever really know people. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Forgetting to notify banks, insurance companies, utilities providers, etc. of the move and new address. Remember the last time you went to the DMV? You probably had to show a proof of address, which is most often a bill from a bank or utility. Bills, bank statements and insurance documents contain a ton of information that anyone can use to steal your identity. Be sure to notify any financial or utility companies that you are moving in advance of your move so that you can either settle up, or have the address changed so that the bill comes to you. If you won’t be settled into your new home for a while, you can set up a P.O. Box or have your mail forwarded to a trustworthy family member or friend.
Keeping important documents, including titles, registration and insurance, in the car when it’s being moved. Again, you don’t want this important information in the wrong hands. Always keep important documents, from wills and birth certificates to car titles and registrations, on your person when you are moving.
Not vetting the moving company to make sure it is legitimate. Since your mover’s will be in you rhome and handling your items, you want to be sure you are working with a reputable company. A good moving company will only hire employees that have been background checked and drug tested. Here is an article on how to find a reputable moving company.
Leaving sensitive documents and materials, or computers open, in the presence of movers, contractors, utility representatives, cable representatives, etc. Your old home and your new home will be open to a variety of different people. Be sure to keep important documents under lock and key, and your computer locked, in the midst of all of the activity. In fact, be sure to password protect any mobile devices, including your smartphones and tablets, for additional piece of mind.
The FTC estimates that more than nine million people were victims of identity theft in the past year. It’s a staggering number that continues to grow. While most people know to be diligent online, it’s easy to forget that your identity can be compromised the old fashioned way – by theft of paper documents. It’s important to be diligent. If you have reason to believe that your information is in the wrong hands, or that you have been a victim of identity theft, here is helpful information from the FTC on the steps you will need to take to protect yourself.
Do you have any other tips for protecting your identity? Please share below.