These days, it isn’t unusual to hear stories about people who have had their identities stolen, credit ratings trashed, and reputations put at risk. The Internet, unfortunately, provides a forum for making identity theft easier and more expedient. However, there is no need to panic, for one can take measures to decrease the possibility of this happening to you. Common sense and vigilance are the keys to keeping your identity – and consequently your finances and future – safe.

Good Steps to Take to Prevent ID Theft

If you are concerned about private, sensitive information being exposed for thieves to use against you, there are things you can do to maintain your security, especially on the Web. Here are a few suggestions for keeping your ID your own.

Shred Important Documents and Receipts: Once you are finished with invoices, credit card statements and anything else that has personal or financial information, make sure it is shredded thoroughly. But watch for personal shredders, because even the craftiest white collar criminal can piece together strips. Look in your area for community shredding events, where professionals will take your paperwork and shred it with an industrial strength machine.

Be Careful When Shopping Online: Buying products and services via the Internet may be easy, but if you give credit card information over an insecure website you risk exposing that information to hackers. Look for the lock icon on your browser when you shop, and only make purchases from sites you trust. If you receive e-mail newsletters from vendors, be wary of clicking through to websites unless you have opted-in to a specific mailing. Many times scam artists disguise e-mails to look like a legitimate company advertising to you. Sometimes hovering your mouse over the links will reveal a dubious address.

Change Passwords Periodically: If you are the type to use the same password for a multitude of protected websites, consider mixing it up a little, and changing your password from time to time. Do not use a password closely associated with you – children’s names, phone number, etc. – that somebody could figure out.

Give as Little Information on Yourself as Possible: Social media is a popular trend right now, with millions of people using Facebook and Twitter to connect to friends. If you feel the need to be social, don’t give out too much information about yourself. Use an e-mail address with a gender neutral ID and try not to volunteer geographical information if you can.

For more tips on Internet identity safety, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a good source, and the site of the Federal Trade Commission offers good tips for consumers and businesses. The more you know, the better you can protect yourself, and your identity.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Virginia Beach shredding and Virginia web design.