Identifying your Risk

how to reduce the chance your identity is stolen identity theft occurs when someone uses another person’s personal identifying information, like their name, identifying number, or credit card number, without their permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. Interestingly, though the term was coined in 1964, identity theft exploded when computers, cell phones and digital data became routine in our daily life.

Sadly, despite our best protections, fraudsters continue to find new ways to steal our personal information and identity theft continues to rise each year. Consumer identity theft complaints rose to almost 1.5 million in 2021 – a 3.3% increase from 2020.

So, how can you protect yourself?

Beware of texts, emails, or calls asking for any money, passwords, or personal information. Verify any communication by contacting the company directly through their website or by calling. Look for red flags when purchasing goods online from an unfamiliar company.  If you do not have the option to use a trusted third-party payment platform, criminals posing as a merchant can directly access your personal information.  And if the price is too good to be true, it probably is! Guard your heart. In 2021, there was an 80% increase in online dating scams. Don’t send money or gift cards to anyone you don’t know no matter how they may seem online.

If you aren’t in the habit of continually checking your bank statements and credit reports, pay $9-25/month for an identity theft service such as LifeLock or Identity Guard (voted best identity theft protection service in 2023 by US News and World Report).  A service will monitor your personal and financial information and alert you to any suspicious activity.  Depending on the service, it may include insurance and recovery assistance should your identity become compromised.

Collect mail daily and put your mail on hold while you are away.  Credit card offers with your personal information allow scammers to attempt open a credit card on your behalf.  Better yet, you can go one step further to protect your identity by opting out of mailed credit card offers.  Visit to start the process.

Install an antivirus software and keep computer systems up to date. Keeping your browser up-to-date protects against phishing attacks, viruses, trojans, spyware, adware, and other sorts of malware.  In addition, update phone software regularly as these updates help patch security gaps and protect against cyberattacks.

Create different passwords for each account. You will be glad you did in the case one becomes compromised.  Stolen passwords account for 81% of hacking-related breaches, according to a 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report from Verizon. Enabling Two-factor authentication for email, social media accounts, bank accounts, and credit cards is an even better idea and adds an extra layer of password security. You can  also try a password management system to help you remember, organize and protect passwords.

Lastly, wipe electronics clean before donating and shred documents containing personal information.  What documents should you shred? Start with financial statements, medical records, legal documents, payroll records, and tax records.  A complete guide to what to shred and when can be found on the Federal Trade Commission website at
If you are in need of help organizing your paperwork or shredding documents to avoid identity theft contact Silver Linings Transitions – we can help!  We also work with reputable third party buyers who can insure any computers you donate/sell are wiped clear.