While news headlines make identity theft seem like it's mainly an online issue, you should recognize that there are also very real offline dangers.
Trash doesn't always end up in the dump. A recent study conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research suggests that you are in greater danger from identity thieves rummaging for important papers in your trash or breaking into your mailbox than from online theft.
Offline precautions. To protect yourself, consider shredding documents containing your personal information, such as account statements, locking your mailbox, and emptying your wallet of anything you don't absolutely have to carry.
Don’t respond to email or phone calls asking for your account information.
Phishing emails. Phishing (fake) emails are made to look like they’re from legitimate companies but are actually from identity thieves. These emails warn you of account problems or other urgent issues in order to trick you into clicking through to a spoof website or calling a fake customer service number.
Spoof websites. A fake website is meant to mimic a website from a well-known company. It will ask you to enter your user name and password or other account information. Once you do this, you've given your information to someone who might use it to do you harm.
Genuine PayPal email. We will never ask for your password or financial information in an email. You should only share information about your account once you’ve logged in to https://www.paypal.com directly from your browser.
Phone Calls. Beware of unsolicited phone calls claiming to be from customer service centers and requesting that you provide sensitive personal information. You should hang up and call the number on the company’s website.
People have become smarter about sharing their Social Security numbers – but often don't think twice about sharing other sorts of sensitive information during transactions.
Checks. When paying with a check, you're handing a piece of paper with your bank name, account number, address, and signature to a stranger. Industry analysts report that check fraud is a significant problem.
Online payment systems. When using online payment systems like PayPal, you get a secure way to complete a transaction. With PayPal, you can pay without the merchant ever seeing your credit card or bank account number. This significantly limits the information that you share in a financial transaction.
Protect your computer.
Software protection. The key to securing your own computer is to use protective software and keep it up to date. Make sure that you install all security patches available from the developer of your operating system. Run antivirus software to check incoming emails and update virus definitions frequently. Set up a firewall to prevent intruders from getting into your network or computer.
Password protection. Always choose strong passwords to protect accounts. Mix upper and lowercase letters. Use symbol characters. Create unique passwords for each one of your accounts.
Act Quickly. The longer a breach goes undiscovered, the more costly it becomes. According to the Federal Trade Commission, your chances of suffering significant financial damage from identity theft are significantly lower if you discover the breach within six months of its occurrence. After six months, you are more likely to lose money or spend hours untangling a truly difficult situation.
Monitor your accounts frequently. Log in to your PayPal account and also check credit card activity and balances often to look for suspicious activity.