In the past few weeks I have overhead coworkers at my full-time job engage in personal phone calls at their desk during which they have spoken aloud their social security number, their credit card number, or the answer to an account security question.
On my desk is a stack of paper, pens, and a laptop with Internet access. If I were so inclined I could have easily posted their personal information online or sold it later to an unscrupulous buyer. Luckily for my coworkers I would never do such a thing.
Never reveal your data
Anytime I read news articles online on in magazines or watch a news segment about identify theft, one of the “tips” that is offered is to never offer your social security number, credit card number, account number, password, or other piece of information unless absolutely necessary. If you didn’t initiate the phone call then do not give the caller such information. If you initiate the call and then suddenly get a weird vibe you should terminate the call; no legitimate company is going to have an issue with that. Indeed I did that once with my credit card so I can speak from experience – before I terminated the call I explained my reason to the customer service rep and he fully agreed that I should “go with my gut” in that situation.
How to protect yourself
Constant vigilance will not protect you from identity theft unfortunately; there are just too many opportunities for your personal information to fall into the wrong hands. But there are some easy and commonsense practices that you can do to at least make the identity thieves break a sweat. An obvious one is to be aware of how you shield your credit card while in line at a store or other place of business – I always hold my credit card so that it is nestled in my palm and pressed against my leg so that those in line behind me can’t see the card number and expiration date. Better yet, leave the card in your purse or wallet until you need to slide it through the register card reader. When checking your credit card balance by phone, use the phone keypad to enter the card number rather than speak the numbers aloud. Shred every piece of paper that features any kind of identifying data; what looks like an unintelligent sequence of numbers to you may be decipherable and valuable in the wrong hands. Shred receipts that include any part of your credit card number – it amazes me how many people rationalize throwing away receipts simply because most of the numbers are represented by a series of X’s! In the wrong hands those X’s represent valuable data.
How much attention do you pay to your surroundings when you are handling your personal information? Comment below and let me know.