Whether you realize it or not, identity theft is something that you, as an apartment dweller, should worry about. With the amount of personal information being collected and stored these days, every effort should be made to minimize the odds of your information falling into the wrong hands.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft results from someone obtaining your personal information, such as your social security number, date of birth, address and bank account numbers and using the information to pose as you. Among the uses thieves have for your identity is opening credit in your name. This way, they can run up large bills and default on the payments, which can ruin your credit rating. Of course, since they obtained the credit under your identity, it’s difficult to prove to the creditor that someone else is responsible. It can take years, and a lot of money, to clear up an incident of identity theft; and in the meantime, you won’t be able to open a credit card or get a mortgage or car loan in your name. The best way to avoid this scenario is to prevent identity theft in the first place.
How Apartment Dwellers Can Reduce the Odds of Identity Theft
A primary source of identity theft, for apartment dwellers, is mail. Unlike single-family homeowners, apartment occupants share a mail area. Shared mail facilities are a prime target for identity thieves because multiple opportunities exist for them to obtain information from your mail.The easiest way for them to do this is by taking your mail from an unlocked mailbox or by picking up junk mail or magazines left outside your mailbox.
What you can do to prevent this from happening:
- Ensure that the lock on your mailbox is working properly and that you always keep it locked.
- Collect your mail daily and never leave junk mail, catalogs or magazines addressed to you lying around in the mail area.
- When going away for an extended period of time, have your mail held at the post office or ask a trusted friend or neighbor to hold it for you until you return.
- Rent a post office box at your local post office or at a private post office box rental company. Having your bills and bank statements sent to a post office box allows more control over who can access it. Some private post office box services also accept packages, which can avoid theft and eliminate another source identity thieves use to collect information about you.
- Alternatively, you can opt out of receiving paper statements from banks, credit card companies, utilities and other recurrent billing companies who offer electronic statements. This option averts the possibility of someone finding something while rifling through your mail.
Shred Your Bank Statements and Other Personal Documents
Whichever method you choose to protect your identity, also invest in a quality paper shredder to destroy statements or other personal documents before recycling them. A cross-cut shredder is ideal because it provides more security by cutting paper vertically and horizontally into confetti-like pieces. Always be alert to situations where others can steal your identity and take measures to protect yourself.
Lisa Bernstein: As a long-time apartment dweller and seasoned condominium trustee, I have dealt with numerous landlord-tenant, property management, and day-to-day apartment complex issues. My extensive, direct experience has led to invaluable insights into apartment life from both the tenant and management perspectives.