Identity Theft and Ways You Can Protect Your Identity
Identity theft is a serious and growing concern. With rapid growth in technology, personal security shouldn't be ignored or overlooked. People using automated systems have to be aware of the different ways identity theft can happen. In our current digital world we are at risk of identity theft in our email inboxes, in the information we provide to others, and in any area data is kept, stored or disposed of. Credit cards and bank statements that get thrown away without being shredded are an example of a common way people leave the door wide open to identity thieves. Let's look at some ways you can better protect yourself from being a victim of identity theft.
8 Ways To Reduce the Risk of Being a Victim of Identity Theft
Personal Document Protection
Physical documents such as your birth certificate, social security card, insurance policies and living wills should be kept in a fire safe lock box. Your mortgage agreement, health insurance information, and other like paperwork should be kept safe and secure from break ins or emergencies.
Don't Throw Your Identity Into The Trash
Cutting a credit card in half isn't cutting it anymore. Identity theft is big business and thieves will resort to extreme measures to get your information. For this reason, you must be just as extreme in protecting your identity and personal information. Business owners that handle other people's sensitive information use cross cutting shredders for extra protection. There are companies that offer pickup and bulk shredding services if you want to skip acquiring this new habit. Some of these companies will shred right on site before leaving your driveway. Items to be shredded should include; bank statements, billing statements, credit offers, credit applications, expired credit cards, old check blanks and deposit slips. Any item that has identifying information on it should be sent through a shredder before being thrown in the trash. This can be your name, address, phone number, social security number, or any billing account number.
Personal Identification Safety With Service Providers
Companies often ask for your personal information to be able to provide a service to you. You'll want to think about what the actual need for them is to have this information before you give it to them. If they are asking for your social security number and it's not a service that needs it, ask if they have an alternative way to verify your identity. You can ask why they need your social security number, how it will be used, and how they protect your information. You may even choose to use a different provider for some services to avoid sharing some of your personal details.
Online and Email Scams Can Steal Your Identity
Be aware of and watch for common online scams. Your email inbox is often a prime target for an identity theft attack. Any email that appears to be from a financial institution should be considered suspect. Yes, your financial institution may contact you by email, but you can carefully determine the authenticity after thinking if it's fraudulent or not. Don't click on the links in the email if it's suspect. Instead, manually type the address into your browser or call the bank using the number on your card or physical statement.
Public WIFI or Shared Internet Safety
When you use public WiFi, ensure that any private information you share is done over a secure connection. You'll recognize this because your browser will have the "https" in the address bar and will show a closed padlock icon. Modern browsers will give a warning and show the padlock open if the supposed secure connection has a problem. Tech savvy culprits have succeeded at identity theft by simply sitting at coffee shops and letting their computers gather data from other guests who are using an unsecured WiFi connection. When you see the padlock icon, you're protected from this type of attack. It's advised not to login to banking site or money processing sites from an open connection. Stored passwords can be swiped and used fraudulently without your knowledge. If you have logged into sites from shared computers double check that you've logged out again.
Proper Data Disposal Protects You From Identity Theft
Just like shredding documents, data on computers and mobile devices you no longer use needs to be disposed of. When the time comes to upgrade your computer or mobile phone, have the old data wiped from it using your operating system or device reset options. This will remove your personal data and reset the systems to their original manufacturer settings. Make sure to follow directions found in the owner’s manual, on the service providers or manufacturers website. In extreme cases, you can remove the hard drive and destroy it. You'll want to ensure that your emails, text messages, address books and browser history are all removed. Take out any removable memory cards and the SIM card from your phones. The best solution is to leave the device entirely blank.
Identity Theft Protection Service Providers
Before you choose this type of service, familiarize yourself with the company and confirm they have a solid reputation in the data security industry. By giving them some limited authority to represent you to the credit reporting agencies and other institutions, they are able to place freezes and fraud alerts and generate reports for you. Much of this you can do on your own for free, but you may find it valuable to have a professional service handle this for you.
Credit Report Monitoring For Identity Theft Protection
You'll want to keep a close watch on your bank and credit card statements. Identify that each transaction was performed by you. If you find any transaction that you didn't make, take action immediately! In some cases, if the fraud is not reported within 60 days, you may not be able to recoup your losses. Check your credit reports every so often. Each of the credit reporting agencies will provide you a free credit report each year. If you schedule them out you can get a free one every 4 months. If you see any accounts on your report that don't belong to you or are unfamiliar, get immediate professional help.
You can significantly lower your risk of identity theft by being aware of the common places identity thieves can get access to your information. By taking a few precautionary steps, being alert, and being proactive you can protect yourself from ever experiencing identity theft.