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Spring Clean Your ID Protection Habits

Summer is almost here—you’re running out of time to tackle spring cleaning. While washing windows and dusting furniture, take some time to polish your identity theft repellant habits.

Cleaning up and clearing out should include the papers piling up on your desk. Scan them, file them or shred them—but move them off your desk and into a permanent location. USA.gov gives guidance on how long to keep documents:

  • Credit card receipts-until paid (unless you need them to support tax filings)
  • Shred monthly investment statements, but hold onto annual statements
  • Bank statements – 1 year (unless needed to support tax filings)
  • Tax records - 7 years from the filing date
  • For shredding, Frank Abagnale of “Catch Me If You Can” recommends using a microcut shredder to dispose of documents.

If you haven’t already changed your passwords this month, it’s time. Make absolute certain that your passwords are unique. The recent hack of Starbucks accounts was the result of people using passwords that had already been compromised elsewhere.

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Grab your phone or tablet. How many apps do you have that are unused? Delete them. You’ll reduce the number of entry points for identity thieves. Delete accounts and files that are no longer necessary. Back up and store important photos, documents and files on an external drive or in the cloud.

Personal finance author Jean Chatzky reminds us to clean up our social media presence. Look at what’s posted on your timeline and get “rid of things like pets names, mother’s maiden names, birthdates, mother’s birthdates, etc.” That info can be used by ID thieves to answer security questions online or create new accounts.

And finally, order a free credit report. It’s still one of the best ways to spot trouble.

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