An estimated 17.6 million Americans fell victim to identity theft in 2015. Everyone is at risk, young and old, millionaire or living paycheck to paycheck. Truck drivers too. Learn the ways you can protect yourself from id theft, on the road and at home.
ID Theft Risk Factors for Truck Drivers
Truck drivers have a few unique risk factors for id theft. Do you increase your risk with any of these common behaviors?
- You Shouldn’t Carry Documents – Is your Social Security card in your wallet? Do you carry your birth certificate with you on long hauls? Some drivers carry important documents in their truck, or worse their wallet, increasing the risk of id theft. When you carry these documents with you, the chances of them being lost or stolen increase. Whenever possible leave your important documents in a secure location, like a locked safe. Most of the time you won’t need them with you on the road.
- Mail Sensitive Paperwork– You’re across the country and discover you need your birth certificate. What should you do? Many drivers choose to have their paperwork mailed,a risky proposition if you aren’t careful. If you do mail paperwork, choose services with tracking. If you fax sensitive documents, be very cautious. Choose a secure service for both the sending and receiving of the documents. If a copy will work, use one, rather than the original and make sure that it is clearly marked as a copy.
- Using Your SSN on 1099s– Many owner operators use their personal Social Security number for business taxation purposes. Although this save you from filing a little extra paperwork, it can increase your id theft risk. Each and every time you book a load you’ll be sharing your SSN so the business can create a 1099 at the end of the year. Who knows how securely they store your information? See if you can get an Employer Identification Number instead. This number works like a SSN for your business and shields you from having to share your personal number for business purposes. Learn more from the IRS or your tax professional.
- Using Free Wi-Fi– Free Wi-Fi is great for saving on data, but isn’t always the most secure. Use caution when using free Wi-Fi and avoid accessing sensitive pages. Save the online banking for a more secure connection.
Other Ways to Protect Yourself from ID Theft
The risk for id theft is real, but there is much you can do to protect yourself. Try these tips, many of which can be easily done from home or sitting in a truck across the country.
- Check Your Bank Statements– Check your card statements often, looking for unfamiliar purchases. It can be harder for some truck drivers to spot fraudulent charges since they may use their cards at locations around the country. Keeping a detailed list of purchases and amounts will help you stay on track.
- Use Credit, Not Debit– Credit cards have stronger fraud protections than debit cards and are generally a safer choice. Many credit cards offer $0 fraud liability as long as the purchase is reported within the designated window. When a fraudulent credit charge is under investigation, the purchase is put on hold and you’re not responsible for the charge. With debit, you may be without the money until the investigation is complete.
- Check Your Credit– At least once a year you should check your credit, looking for any suspicious accounts. You can get your free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com, the only authorized source for your free yearly reports. This guide from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will help you learn what to look for and will point you in the right direction if you do find a problem.
- Limit What You Share– Keep personal information sharing to a minimum. Use security settings on social media and give out your SSN only when necessary.
How do you keep your identity safe on the road?