You have something to hide.
Perhaps its your jewelry, perhaps your ex-boyfriends love letters. At the very least, you have your good name, and thats well worth protecting, says Allison Hope Weiner, co-author of the book Hiding Your Money (Prima Publishing).
Weiner says most of us are rather inept about safeguarding the things we hold most dear. We tend to stash valuables in places that arent very clever such as sock drawers and coat pockets and we dont bother hiding the personal papers that can be the most valuable assets of all to an identity thief.
Thats why Weiner and co-author Jerome Schneider advise putting some thought into what you might want to hide and where.
With a little bit of planning, you can save a lot of heartache, Weiner says.
She knows. She was once the victim of an identity thief who stole a credit-card bill from her mailbox, changed her address to a post-office box and then went on a $15,000 spending spree. It took her a year to clear up the mess, and she encountered hassles even when she tried to use a new account.
They acted like I was a criminal, she says.
What should you consider hiding? Absolutely anything with your Social Security number on it, Weiner says. That and your name are all an identity thief needs to wreak havoc on your credit.
She recommends buying a small safe to hold such mail as bank statements, credit applications and mortgage statements. The idea is to keep them out of easy access to strangers such as repair people, housecleaners or blind dates.
She also recommends hiding anything thats important to you or that you dont want someone to find. Those might be things you hold dear, such as your grandmothers ring, or things that are potentially embarrassing, such as your high-school diary.
Lots of spots around your home would make good hiding places, as long as theyre not obvious. Some of the places that Weiner and Schneider suggest include:
nUnder a floorboard in the center of a room that has a large area rug.
nIn a hole in the wall behind a mirror, picture or medicine cabinet. Recessed cabinets are best because theyre held in place by screws.
nInside upholstered furniture. Turn over a couch or chair and pull out the staples that secure the fabric to the underside of the frame, then carefully reattach the fabric with a staple gun after youve hidden your goods inside.
nIn air ducts. Be sure to choose a horizontal run, and tuck the object back far enough that a thief wouldnt spot it by shining a light through the grill.
nInside a hollow-core door. Use a utility knife to cut an opening in the doors top edge.
Wont thieves know about these places now, too? Maybe, but the point is theyre inaccessible enough that a thief probably wont take the time to look for them, Weiner says. He might pick up the edge of a room-size rug, for example, but hes not likely to fold up the whole thing.
Maybe the most important thing you need to put away, though, is any notion you might have that youre just being paranoid, Weiner says.
If you care about something, she says, you should care enough to protect it.