Identity theft is much more common today than ever before. Luckily, there are just as many ways to protect yourself as there is to become a victim. You must actively protect your identity on a daily basis if you want to keep your information from the thieves.
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Use the following steps to help keep your information protected.
Use Passwords for Everything
Don’t make the mistake of leaving anything without a password. Computers, phones, tablets, and individual websites/apps all need a password. Don’t assume that you’ll never be a victim of identity theft – it’s the ones that get too relaxed that end up a victim.
As you make your passwords, make sure you make them ‘strong.’ Most programs will tell you if your password is weak, good, or strong. Weak means the password is easy for anyone to hack into it; good means that it’s a little more difficult for someone to guess it; and strong means thieves will have to work extra hard to get into your account.
Don’t Use the Same Password
As tempting as it may seem since it’s easier, don’t use the same password for everything. You can use variations of the same password, but using the same password for everything gives thieves an open invitation to your information.
If a thief can get into one of your programs and they all have the same password, you just made it very easy for them to hit you in many areas of your life. It’s best if you have completely different passwords for every program. Just keep a list of the passwords in a secure place and nowhere near any of your devices.
Don’t Fall for Scams
You have probably already received an email that looks real, but is really a scam. It’s called phishing. The predators send out these emails to look like they came from an official company, such as your cellphone provider, but in fact, it didn’t. The email will ask you to click on a link or provide your credentials to take care of an ‘urgent issue.’
Unless you know the email came directly from your provider, don’t do anything. If you are unsure, call the company to see if they sent out any type of email like that. Many companies also have a dedicated email address for you to send any phishing scams you received. This could be another way for you to make sure you aren’t falling for a scam and handing gout your credentials.
Don’t Provide any Information
Some predators will go as far as to call you on the phone. They will act like they are from a company that you use and will ask you to verify your personal information. Unless you initiated the phone call, never give out your information. You wait until you initiate the phone call and you know that you called the company that you intended.
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If you aren’t sure, ask for the caller’s information. You can then hang up and call the number that you know belongs to the company or institution in question. You can then ask them when you call about the person that called you. If it turns out to be a scam, you just saved yourself from handing out your personal information.
Don’t Have Information Everywhere
It can be tempting to carry a lot of credit cards or open a lot of accounts, but that opens you up to fraud. Every store and company seems to have some type of app or program that requires you to provide your personal information. Try to limit the programs you sign up for and when you do sign up, make sure you give as little personal information as possible.
Just because the application asks for every detail of your life doesn’t mean you have to provide it. Name, address, and phone number should be enough to get you what you need. If they need more information, find out why and then decide if it’s worth it.
Get Your Free Credit Reports
You are entitled to one free credit report from each credit bureau once a year. Spread out when you view them so that you can check your credit three times a year. When you get your free credit report, go over it carefully.
You’ll want to look at your personal identifying information as well as all of the accounts in your name. Do you notice accounts that you never opened? Do you have an address reporting that you never lived at? These are signs of identity theft. You’ll need to get in touch with the credit bureaus right away to correct the information. You may also want to put a fraud alert on your credit report. This is a layer of protection as the credit bureau must contact you before any new accounts are opened in your name.
Always be Alert
The final step is to always be alert. You never know when someone is watching you and waiting to grab your personal information. Don’t trust anyone – always be on guard. This way you can limit the number of people that have access to your information.
Identity theft isn’t anything to take lightly. You want to make sure that you protect your information so that you can avoid any financial issues in the future. If you do become a victim, get in touch with the credit bureaus right away to figure out the best steps for you to take to pick up the pieces.
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