Identity theft is a threat that’s top of mind in today’s information age. It’s surprisingly common, but often not on the worst-case-scenario scale that we all worry about. Regardless, start by educating yourself about the real threats at hand, and take these steps to protect yourself from identity theft.
Know The Facts
The most common form of identity theft isn’t as drastic as we tend to think: it’s old-fashioned credit-card fraud, where someone fraudulently accessed credit- or debit-card account. This type of identity theft affects about 4 percent of households per year, according to Consumer Reports.
Luckily, banks and financial institutions are well-equipped to deal with these types of scenarios, and security is improving every day. In addition, your liability is legally limited, and credit-card issuers or banks pay the direct losses, not you, so you don’t have to worry about a big out-of-pocket cost or severe money loss, should anything happen to you.
Never Give Out Your Social Security Number
As a rule of thumb, the only people who should be asking you for your Social Security number (and other high security information of that nature) are your banks and employers. Never give this information to strangers who call, text, or send e-mail messages to you, even if they seem legitimate.
One scam that tends to catch a lot of people each year is scammers calling to pose as the IRS and claiming that you’ve messed up something with your tax return and will be sent to jail. Since this threat is severe and scary, many people tend to act rashly and give out any information that they think will get them out of that situation, even though it’s all fake. Finally, never write your Social Security number on checks, noncredit applications, or other forms. These steps will all help you keep your Social Security number close to your chest, and protect your from identify theft.
Set Up Fraud Alerts With Your Bank
As mentioned above, banks and financial institutions are developing more robust security solutions every day to help protect you from identify theft and fraud. One of these security measures is fraud alerts, in which you will get notified immediately if your account experiences suspicious activity, either via text or email.
If your bank or credit-card issuer offers free online or mobile alerts that will warn you of suspicious account activity as soon as it’s detected, sign up for them. Being quick to catch fraud in action can help prevent more damage than necessary from happening.
Enroll in a Credit Monitoring Service
In addition to setting up fraud alerts, you can also take steps to specifically protect your credit cards by enrolling in a credit monitoring service. A credit monitoring service may be able to help if you’re concerned about identity theft.
Most credit monitoring services can track credit reports on a daily basis, as well as quickly notify you if there’s been an important change to your credit reports.
Use Security Freezes
If you fall victim to fraud, you can protect yourself and shut out identify theft perpetrators before they cause damage by placing a security freeze on your credit reports at major credit bureaus including Equifax and Experian. Setting up these freezes will prevent anyone from looking at your credit report except for the companies that already have a financial relationship with you, certain government agencies, and other exempt entities. You can easily sign up for security freezes by visiting each bureau’s website.
Watch What You Plug Into Your Computer
One of the most dangerous things to do is download software onto your computer from an untrusted source, but second to that is plugging a flash drive or some other untrusted cable into your computer. You never know how people are able to tamper with devices. Only use trusted cables, such as those from Koincable, and make sure you are familiar with the person or company who gave the appliance to you.
Use Complicated Passwords
When you’re online, make sure that you’re protecting your information by using separate passwords for individual accounts. Having strong, complicated passwords, and varied passwords for different accounts can help protect your information because it will minimize the potential for hackers and identity theft perpetrators to be able to steal your information.
Install ad Blockers On Your Computer
Another step that you can take to protect yourself from hackers and cybercriminals is install ad blockers. Pop ups on your computer aren’t just annoying, they can also provide to be very dangerous, as hackers can use them to steal your information or download malware onto your computer. Installing ad-blockers is a very simple step, that can save you a lot of time and headache down the road. In addition, download up-to-date security programs, including anti-malware software with multiple technologies for protecting against spyware.
It’s relatively easy to protect yourself from identity theft – you just have to know the basics and be smart about how you conduct yourself online. Awareness is the first step: Use these tips to proactively protect yourself from identity theft and keep your information safe. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”