The rise of technology in the 21st century has unquestionably changed the world for the better.  For the first time in the history of mankind, the population of the entire planet – individuals of countless backgrounds, languages, and cultures – is more connected and informed than ever before.  Unfortunately, the increased use of technology has made it easier for malicious individuals to partake in certain types of crimes – one of these being identity theft.  Identity theft occurs when a third party steals your personal information and then uses it to open credit cards, borrow money, or perform many other fraudulent actions in your name.  Luckily, there are precautions that can be taken to help avoid identity theft.  Check out these five easy ways you can guard against identity theft. 

Social Security Protection: To the conniving identity thief, obtaining a person’s social security number is akin to striking oil or hitting gold.  In the digital world, it is no secret how much damage can be done when a malicious party is armed simply with a social security number.  Not keeping your social security card in your wallet is a great way to protect against identity attacks.  Instead, keep your card in a secure place in your home or in a safety-deposit box at the bank.  Then, memorize your number.  Unless your adversary is also a psychic, you should be in a good shape. 

Check Your Mail: Though the majority of the world has gone digital, the Postal Service holds steadfast.  Its daily deliveries of paper based correspondence are a constant and novel reminder of a simpler time.  And while the need to check your mail on a daily basis has likely diminished, it does not mean you should be lax in checking it.  Bring in your mail daily to avoid it being stolen.

Employ the Hand-Shield: Though not quite as sexy as Captain America’s circular star, a hand shield can be just as effective when it comes to protecting your personal information.  When at the ATM or check-out counter, use your free hand to cover the keypad as you enter your PIN.  This will prevent identity super-villains with exceptional eyesight super-powers from seeing and stealing your digits.

Use Caution on the Web: Your social security number, date of birth, and address are valuable pieces of information.  Be sure to treat them as such!  There are gazillions of websites that will ask you for information – please be cautious.  Only provide this information to reputable third parties, and even then only when absolutely necessary.  Use your instincts and common sense.  Signing up for an online bank account with Ally?  Probably pretty safe.  Receive a free iPad in exchange for your social?  Not so much.

Be Cognizant on the Phone: Speaking on a cell phone in public has practically become America’s pastime.  Spending only just a few moments in a crowded place – say, an airport or a shopping mall – you’d be hard pressed not to see a dozen people gleefully gabbing away on their bejeweled iPhones.  While there’s nothing wrong with talking on the phone, be sure to be mindful of your location, the information you’re exchanging, and who could possibly hear you.  While you’d like to have faith in the masses, announcing your social security number within earshot of a hundred people is still probably not a good idea.

While certainly frightening, identity theft can be easily avoided.  If you remember these five ways to guard against identity theft above, you will make it far more difficult for any individual of ill repute to steal your identity.