5 Tips to Prevent Identity Theft

creditnet(Ping! Zine Web Tech Magazine) – Identity theft is a problem affecting more and more consumers each year, and can have lasting impressions on consumers finances and credit scores over time. Because online criminals are incredibly hard to track and identity hacking software more sophisticated and lucrative than ever before, many experts point to prevention as the best defense against identity theft.

According to statistics from the U.S Department of Justice reported by USA Today, online credit card data theft increased 50 percent from 2005 to 2010, and “identity theft is expected to surpass traditional theft as the leading form of property crime.” And yet, many consumers are still unaware of the necessary precautions to take when it comes to preventing identify theft online and off.

Today, Creditnet.com – an online authority on credit-related topics including identity theft – published the first in a new series of weekly tips on how to prevent identity theft. Beginning today and continuing each Wednesday for the next five weeks, Creditnet will publish a new article advising consumers on the best ways to prevent online credit card and identity theft.

For consumes most interested in learning about identity theft protection and prevention today, here are five tips Creditnet recommends consumers follow to prevent identity theft.

1.) Stick to secured sites when online shopping

According to Creditnet, websites that feature a secured shopping experience are far from “bulletproof”, but they do offer an extra layer of security against online identity thieves and hacking programs. Secured websites are identified as including “HTTPS” at the front of the URL, and online shoppers can take security one step further by sticking with the online marketplaces they are most familiar with when online shopping.

Another tip for online shopping…

2.) Credit beats debit when it comes to online security

No doubt, debit cards that require a PIN are considered to be more secure when paying in person. But online, many personal finance experts will tell consumers that credit cards are the safest way to pay.

According to Creditnet, credit cards are considered more safe when shopping online because they limit the amount of damage an online hacker can do. Credit cards are isolated from a consumer’s personal bank accounts, so in the event of credit card fraud a consumer’s checking and savings accounts are spared.

Ultimately, the damage that can be done with credit card ID fraud is less than that of a checking or savings account-linked debit card, which is why they’re the preferred way to spend online according to experts.

3.) Invest in identity theft prevention products

Unfortunately, not all forms of identity theft can be tracked by the individual issuers. Identity thieves are also notorious for opening up bogus credit card accounts, running up huge tabs and ultimately leaving the bill for the unsuspecting consumer while wreaking havoc on their credit score.

By law, American consumers are entitled to one free credit report annually (consumers can apply at AnnualCreditReport.com), however monthly and even daily credit monitoring via online services like Equifax and Identity Guard offer the most protection against identity theft.

For instance, the Equifax Complete™ Family Plan includes fraud alerts and credit monitoring for to two adults and up to four minor children (kids under 18 are vulnerable to identity theft online, too), plus Internet scans warning members if their personal information has landed on suspicious websites. There are several other ID theft prevention tools available under this plan, which currently starts at $29.95 per month according to their site.

Similarly, Identity Guard® is another product that allows consumers to be proactive against identity theft, and can include tools like credit and public record monitoring, identity monitoring and ID verification alerts. Their current Platinum offer with Child Identity Theft Protection starts at $25 per month and is most comparable to the above family plan offered by Equifax.

Whether consumers are ready to invest in credit monitoring products or not, it’s at the very least important to stay up-to-date on personal finances, including regular monitoring of all banking accounts to personally identify any charges that look inaccurate.

4.) Shred all personal documents

One of the easiest ways for consumers to work at preventing identity theft is to shred ALL personal documents; bank statements, credit card offers, old paycheck stubs, etc. should all go straight to the shredder.

Not all identity theft crimes begin online. Leaving old, personal documents in tact in a garbage or recycling essentially puts this information out in the open and available for anyone willing to dig deep enough. Unfortunately, these people are out there, which is why it’s important for consumers to invest in a shredder and – most importantly – to use it.

5.) Don’t carry around unnecessary information

Again, not all identity theft begins online. Carrying a social security card each day in a purse or wallet isn’t just unnecessary – it’s leaves a consumer highly vulnerable to identity theft in case that wallet or purse is lost or stolen. Medicare cardholders should also note that their Medicare card includes their social security number and should treat it as such.

Unlike credit cards and driver’s licenses, a social security number is irreplaceable. Stow away anything with a social security number on it; it’s unnecessary to carry and can lead to serious long-term damage in the event that it’s misplaced or stolen and ends up in the wrong hands.

While the above are five of the best tips for identity theft prevention, they’re certainly not the only tips to consider. For more information regarding identity theft tips, personal finance advice and DIY-credit repair, contact Creditnet Vice President Jason Bushey on Google+.