Mark Your Calendar: December is Identity Theft Awareness Month


December 21, 2023 is the Winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, when the North Pole is positioned at its maximum tilt away from the Sun. Even though this day has the fewest hours of daylight, it is still just as long as every other day, with 24 hours available for thieves to take every opportunity to steal your identity. December is also the month when identity theft rises to a fever pitch as shopping reaches its annual height, often leaving financial and personal information vulnerable to being seen, stolen or lost.

This is why December is Identity Theft Awareness and Prevention month. It’s the perfect time to sharpen your awareness and learn how to protect yourself from identity theft. Never assume that you won’t be a target and you might prevent yourself from becoming a statistic.

Where Does Identity Theft Happen?

Identity theft can happen almost anywhere:

  • In person
  • Online
  • Through email
  • Over the phone
  • In your garbage or recycling bin
  • In your mailbox

4 Identity Theft Awareness Tips

1. Shred Everything

What is your practice for disposing of paper documents? Do you toss them in the trash or recycling bin and think no more of it? You should never do either of these things.

Always shred your documents and anything with personally identifiable information (PII) on it. This is the information businesses are required by law to protect, and the law requires it for one reason: to protect you, the consumer, from identity theft and financial fraud.

Identity thieves are not above digging in your trash or recycling, and in many states, once your bins are on the street, it is not illegal for someone to look through it and take items. If those individuals have theft in mind, you have just become a victim of identity theft.

Instead, adopt a “shred everything” policy. Include items like address labels, prescription labels, travel documents, credit card offers, and anything else with your PII on it. To maximize your protection, use the services of a NAID AAA Certified shredding company that will guarantee your information is completely destroyed and can’t be reconstructed. Whether you have a garage full of file boxes or just a few bags of papers, a good shredding company will protect your information.

2. Protect Your Digital Identity with a VPN

It might sound complicated, but signing up for a virtual private network (VPN) is easy and can be set up on mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. A VPN increases your online protection while you’re browsing the internet on public WiFi by encrypting the connection between your computer and the VPN server and masking your IP address and personal information, hiding the information being transmitted from prying eyes. Many VPN servers provide multiple layers of encryption.

3. Make Passwords Challenging

All it takes is one mistake to could open the door for your information to be stolen and your financial accounts to be hijacked. Common password mistakes include:

  • Using a simple, short, or guessable password, such as your dog’s name or child’s birth date
  • Using the same password for multiple online accounts and apps
  • Not changing your passwords frequently to prevent hacking
  • Sharing your password with a stranger, such as during a phishing attack

When an identity thief takes over your account, you will lose access when they change your password. Once that happens, cutting off their access can be a major hassle, and in the meantime, they can steal your information. In the even that you share a password, change it immediately.

Identity thieves love predictable or easy passwords that never get changed. Be sure to use long passwords with upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols and change them several times a year. To keep them all straight, consider using password management software.

4. Be Cautious on Social Media

Facebook, X (Twitter), Instagram, TikTok, and other social media platforms are popular hangouts for identity thieves who are skilled at piecing together tidbits of information you share. Even photos can give away information you don’t realize you’re sharing. Refrain from posting any personal information, like birthdates, children’s names, and addresses, and keep your privacy settings high, limiting your profile data and posts to a trusted circle of people.

Pacific Shredding proudly provides the residents and businesses of California’s Central Valley with the full range of NAID AAA Certified shredding services. Call us at 800-685-9034 or complete the form on this page, and we’ll help you protect your identity from thieves this December and all year long.

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