Nobody wakes up in the morning and declares, “Today is the day I’m going to let some thief steal my identity.” However, the harsh reality is that there are several common mistakes we’ve all made at one time or another which could give a savvy crook the opportunity to swoop in and steal our identity. Does this mean you should become paranoid and never leave your home? Of course not! It does mean you should take some simple precautions as you go about your business. Avoiding these common mistakes can go a long way to protecting what you’ve earned and the reputation you’ve built up.

1. Not Locking Away Your Social Security Card

There is really no reason why you should ever be carrying around your Social Security card. This is the most precious password you could ever have. It literally unlocks all of your personal information. Do you really want to risk having that swiped or lost? If you have a hard time remembering the number, then don’t write it out on a slip of paper to stick in your wallet or purse. A thief is going to know exactly what that is. Commit to memory. If you need to show your card to start a job, then show it and lock it back up right away.

2. Not Being Away of Your Surroundings  

Everybody has a cell phone and we’ve all had the joy of sharing in on many conversations that weren’t our own. If you’ve ever overheard someone talking on a cell phone, then consider that it can happen to you, too. Should we never take calls? No, but we shouldn’t be talking about financial matters or other account related information on a cell phone in a public place. Period! If you need to disclose that kind of information, then call back when you know you’re alone. Don’t think this is really a problem? Next time you’re standing by someone talking on their cell phone, hit the record button on your phone. How simple is that?

3. Not Knowing Your You’re Talking to Online

Thanks to the many social media networks like FaceBook and Twitter we have the rich opportunity to broaden our social circle and make all kinds of new friends. These are folks who share common interests and points of view. They are our online communities. However, just because someone puts up a friendly picture and appears to be like-minded doesn’t always make it so. Some of these posters could be scammers who are trolling for valuable information they can steal and then sell.

Even random innocent questions can be used against you. How many accounts use your mother’s maiden name for a password? If you made a cyber friend and started talking about where your families are from, then it’s not a stretch to get that maiden name. Tell someone where you were born and they can get a copy of a birth certificate which in turn can let them get a Social Security card in your name! There’s a great way to prevent all of this. Before you get too close to sharing your personal information, pick up the phone and talk to your new cyber friend. Make sure they are who they say they are!

You’ve only got one identity, so keep it protected!