As the bills and statements pile up, it's easy to leave your personal information lying around your home. But taking care with your private details and who might be able to see them is a really important way of protecting yourself from Identity Fraud.
Here's our simple top tips for fighting off the frausters and keeping your identity safe:
Clear it out!
Fraudsters usually use copies of your personal data to open up accounts, so the best way to pull the rug from under them is to get rid of any personal documents you no longer need. From old passports to pay slips from years ago, these need to go if they are no longer of use to you. Set aside time every week or so to have a really good sort out and take a look through:
- Handbags old and new: Look out for old receipts, bank cards and other personal documents that might be lurking at the bottom of them or in any pockets.
- Window sills: That convenient ledge may seem like a practical shelf but remember to keep all private documents well away from the window. If you can see out, people can see in.
- Sideboards and tables in the hall: This might be an easy place to plonk the post once it comes through the letterbox but this also means it's an easy place for anyone to nosey at your details. Think about getting a little storage box you could place on that table so that your important post is still convenient to get to but out of sight of others.
- Shared letter boxes: If you have one of these, try your best not to leave post in there too long after it it's delivered as this gives anyone with less than kind intentions more chance to go through your personal mail.
With all the documents you find, make two piles: one for the documents you'll never need again and one for the documents you think you need to keep.
The pile of documents you don't need should go straight to the shredder. You can buy home shredders from many high street shops and supermarkets across a range of prices, with cross-cut shredders the best to guarantee your personal documents are impossible for fraudsters to read. Fellowes also have a range of shredders of all different shapes and sizes.
Try to avoid going through your shredding pile like a load of ironing though as this means all your information will be in one place, making things easier for fraudsters. Shredding documents as you go will also avoid the stack of important documents piling up at home.
If your shredder has a safety lock, why not get the grandchildren involved in shredding too and make it into a fun game? With Halloween just around the corner, you could try getting the children to make the shredded paper into a spider's web or the contents of a witch's cauldron.
Pack up the private documents
For that pile of documents you need to keep, find somewhere you can safely store this rather than leaving it to build up on the kitchen table. A sorter or file may be useful for paper documents you need to be able to see easily and you can also often order them into sections, such as 'bills' or 'bank statements', or by date.
If you realise any important documents are ever missing from your home, such as a driving licence or passport, be sure to report this immediately.
Try to avoid writing down personal infromation such as passwords and pin numbers but if you need to, keep these in a safe or lockable drawer. Never share these with people or companies you don't trust either.
If any of your usual personal documents, such as statements, stop arriving or appear unusual, you should contact the organisation who sends them straight away to find out what might be causing this. It's the same if you receive letters for services, goods or benefits you don't think you've applied for- calling up the company straight away is the best way of putting your mind at ease and ensuring nothing is amiss.
There's more consumer advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.