Identity theft is getting more and more commonplace, and with data breaches happening on a regular basis, it’s almost guaranteed that your personal information is out there on the dark web, in the hands of criminals. But just because you’re vulnerable to identity theft doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to it.
You can do plenty to avoid becoming the victim of identity theft. By taking precautions to protect your personal information, you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble. Identity thieves can use your personal information to take out loans and credit cards in your name, commit crimes and give your information to the police when they are arrested, or use your health insurance for their own treatment. Don’t let thieves destroy your finances and your life – take these steps to avoid having your identity stolen.
It’s a good idea to use an ID security service or software to help you protect your identity. Not only can such a service help with credit monitoring and dark web monitoring, it can also provide some recovery help and identity fraud insurance coverage if you do fall victim to identity theft.
Credit card, investment, and bank statements should be shredded before being disposed of, to prevent thieves from stealing the information out of your trash. Use a crosscut shredder to ensure that these documents are adequately destroyed.
Identity thieves will steal your mail in order to try to get information like your Social Security number or your credit card numbers or bank account numbers. Take your mail out of your mailbox as soon as possible after it arrives. Use Informed Delivery so you know what you should be getting and can watch for it.
Phishing and spoofing scams are getting more sophisticated, so you need to stay on your toes. A spoofing scam occurs when a scammer uses software to make a phone call appear to come from a legitimate source, like the IRS or your bank. Phishing scams occur when scammers use email to try to steal your personal information or login credentials through a mirror site or by downloading malware onto your computer. Know the signs of phishing and spoofing scams so you can protect yourself and your identity.
Check Your Credit Reports
You have to check your credit reports regularly to make sure no one has opened any accounts in your name or changed information like your address and phone number, as these are signs your identity has been stolen. You can go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get annual copies of your credit reports from the three major reporting bureaus for free. Stagger them throughout the year for maximum efficiency. Your bank or credit card issuer may also over credit report monitoring.
Protect Your Social Security Number and Other Personal Information
Be careful who you give your Social Security number to. If someone asks for it – say, a doctor’s office or business you’re patronizing – ask how they’re going to use it, whether they need the whole number or just the last four digits, and how they’re going to protect your information. If you’re not satisfied with the answers, don’t give out the information. Protect your PIN numbers, credit card numbers, birthday, and other sensitive information, too.
A simple screen lock on your mobile phone could keep someone from accessing your personal information long enough for you to wipe the phone remotely. Use apps instead of a mobile browser for banking, as it’s more secure if your phone gets stolen.
Using a digital wallet is safer than using your physical cards, because the digital wallet won’t use your credit card number for transactions – instead, it’ll generate a one-time token for each transaction, and that can protect your data in the case of a data breach, since it means that the seller won’t have your credit card info. It can also be a lot more convenient to just carry around your phone or use your smart watch instead of having to take a wallet everywhere.
You should use a unique, strong password for each one of your online accounts, and you should change your passwords every 60 to 90 days. Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA) for any account that offers it. That way, you’ll have to verify your identity through a secondary method every time you log in. This can not only protect your account from thieves, but can potentially give you a heads up that someone is trying to get into your account.
The last thing you need is to get your identity stolen, but you’re likely vulnerable. Do what you need to do to protect yourself, so you don’t have to face the consequences of identity fraud.