Identity theft involves stealing sensitive personal or financial data to assume someone’s identity. This may lead to identity fraud. If a fraudster gets direct access to your bank accounts or credit card details, they may leave without any money or use your identity to commit a crime, implicating you in criminal cases. Besides causing emotional damage, identity theft may damage credit, tax debt, and a criminal record. To stay safe, familiarize yourself with the signs of identity theft and what to look out for. Below are ways to prevent identity theft.
Protect your digital footprint
Your digital footprint refers to the trail of information you leave behind when using digital technology such as the internet, credit cards, social media, GPS systems, and more. To protect your digital footprint, review your social network security settings and always update new features and settings, ensure you use the latest internet browser version, and avoid sharing personally identifiable information. In addition, regularly delete all tracking cookies and browsing history. Click here for more information.
Review your credit reports
Reviewing your credit reports on an ongoing basis is a good way to determine if you are a victim of identity theft, minimizing potential damage as identity theft can be detected early enough. Consider obtaining regular credit reports from a credit bureau to continuously self-monitor your credit.
Freeze your credit
No one can see or request your credit report, including you, when you freeze your credit file. This makes it difficult to apply for a loan, open an account or get a new credit card. To freeze your accounts, contact the relevant credit reporting agencies. You may consider using online, mail-in-options, or telephone services for the account freezing process. Once the accounts are frozen, you get a pin or a passcode that you can later use to temporarily lift the credit freeze. If your kids have bank accounts, consider freezing their credit files to protect them from child identity fraud.
Shred documents that contain personal information before disposing of them
With the rise of phishing scams and online data breaches, some criminals still use dumpster diving to steal personal data. Ensure safekeeping of documents that contain personal information like utility bills, credit card and bank statements, IRS correspondence, and other documents that contain PII, then shred the rest.
Use different passwords for different accounts.
A strong and secure password is considered long, complex, and unique. Use a different password for each account and avoid using details related to your identity, such as a set of last digits from your social security number, parts of your name, your birthday, or initials. For the security questions, don’t select those whose answers could be available online such as your mother’s maiden name or place of birth.
Enable two-factor authentication on your accounts and devices
Since a stolen or compromised password may lead to hacking-related breaches, consider adding two-factor authentication to strengthen your password. This makes it difficult for hackers to access your accounts even after stealing your passwords.
Identity theft compromises your personal and financial security. Consider using these tips to ensure cyber security.