there are many unexpected ways you can put your own identity at riskWe all know that identity theft can happen anywhere at any time. While individually we cannot put an end to identity theft, there are small habits many of us have that unexpectedly put our own identities at risk. Being aware of these habits won’t guarantee that identity theft will never happen, but it will allow you to make sure you’re doing everything in your power to not contribute to the problem. Below are a few of these habits and ways you can stop doing them.

Leaving paperwork or belongings in your car

Cars can sometimes become a permanent home for our belongings. Without even realizing it, anything from jackets and coffee cups to old CDs and receipts might find its way to our backseats or glove compartments. But should a break-in or car theft happen, you’ll end up losing all of it. Furthermore, if your car is ever impounded, sent to the junk yard or even taken to the mechanics’ garage, strangers will have unsupervised access to it. This makes keeping anything of value in your vehicle, especially personal information, a huge risk. You should take a good look at what’s in your car and decide if any of it belongs elsewhere. Papers with personal information, such as bank statements or even receipts for car repairs, are best kept in a safe at home.

It’s not just physical clutter you should be wary of; modern vehicles allow for smartphones and other smart devices to be connected to your car. While these features let you do things like make calls from your vehicle, automatically navigate to places you visit frequently or use apps while you drive, they may also have some downsides. For example, if your car were ever stolen or even hacked, this information could reveal a lot about you. What’s more, the information your car can generate about you is only going to grow as the interconnected world of the Internet of things expands. As such, if you use any of these features, consider limiting how frequently you use them or wiping data from your car regularly, as doing so may help secure your identity.

Having a cluttered home

Sometimes it’s easy to leave papers, such as your bank statements or tax documents, laying around after you’re done with them. They may be out in the open or they might be sitting on a desk or dresser in a private room, but the risk for identity theft is the same either way. Although we all like to think our homes are invincible from preying eyes, that isn’t quite the reality. If you have anyone come over such as a housekeeper or handyman or your home is broken into, this information could be read or, worse yet, stolen. To protect yourself from such vulnerabilities, you should consider putting any papers containing personal information in a safe, locked filing cabinet or at the very least a locked room. If you don’t need to keep a copy of the papers, you may want to invest in a cross-cut shredder and make it a habit to cross-shred them before throwing them away.

Not reading your mail regularly

One of the easiest ways to protect your identity is to control your paper trail by monitoring your mail. You should first make sure that your mailing address is current with the post office, that way mail with your name and other potential identifying information won’t be sent to a previous or incorrect address. If you’re moving soon, you’ll want to set up a forwarding or change of address with the U.S. Postal Service before you move.

Once your address is current and you’re receiving your mail, you’ll want to check your mailbox regularly. A stuffed mailbox is a signal to a would-be thief that no one’s home and, at the very least, may be taken as an invitation to go digging through your mail. Once you collect your mail, don’t let it gather in one spot in your house, treat it like any other piece of personal information and put it away somewhere safe or cross-shred it before you trash it. Finally, you should consider cutting down on the amount of mail you receive. This will reduce your paper trail and is a preemptive step in dealing with some of the issues discussed above. Many services now allow you to go paperless, letting you effortlessly save time and the environment by receiving important messages via a website, a text or your email. You should also look into blocking unsolicited mail, as it tends to contain a lot of personal information, and you’ll likely end up tossing it anyway. If you’re not sure how to go about this, the FTC provides a guide to help you block both unwanted mail and unwanted phone calls.

For more tips on keeping your identity safe, read our identity theft protection blog. If you’re looking for an extra set of eyes to help you keep track of your identity, you may want to look into an identity theft protection service. Read our identity theft protection service reviews to learn how they can help.