Your personal life as well as your financial life might suffer greatly as a result of identity theft. In fact, a study estimated that identity fraud scams cost Americans $56 billion in 2020. Finding measures to secure your cash, credit score, and identity may seem difficult given the variety of ways identity thieves can obtain your information. However, there are a few things you can do right away to maybe protect your personal data.
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1. Use a password manager
If you use “password1” for every website you log into or have sticky notes with different passwords all over your desk, it might be time to switch to a password manager. Passwords can put a barrier between you and anyone else who wants to access your information.
Try to vary your passwords so you don’t use the same one for every website, and change them frequently. When you make changes, utilize a password manager to keep track of them for you rather than using less secure techniques like sticky notes.
2. Keep crucial papers at home.
To confirm your employment eligibility for a new job or to obtain a government-issued ID like a driver’s license, you might require your Social Security card. However, try to refrain from lugging those items around with you every day.
Important documents can make it simple for someone to steal your identity if they end up in the wrong hands. Examples include your Social Security card, passport, birth certificate, and other legal documents. Keep these records in a safe place at home instead, and only bring them out as needed.
4. Carry only the necessary credit cards.
Your wallet may be stuffed with credit cards from various merchants, travel credit cards, and reward credit cards for various expenditures. However, those credit cards won’t be there if your wallet is stolen.
Avoid carrying around an excessive number of cards and stick to a few instead, or attempt to think ahead to which cards you might want to use on your next night out or shopping trip to safeguard both yourself and your credit card accounts.
4. Verify your credit history
To verify your credit accounts and make sure there hasn’t been any odd activity that would suggest identity theft, you can obtain a free copy of your credit report.
If there are problems, you can request that a security freeze or fraud alert be applied to your report until any problems can be resolved. You can see your credit score for free from many credit card issuers, and you should do so periodically. You can obtain a free credit report to find out what might have led to a significant shift in your score if you notice one.
5. Purchase a shredder.
A little shredder for your home office can be pricey today, but it could end up saving you cash and heartache. Check your documentation again before throwing it away if it contains personal information because doing so could get you in hot water later.
Examine your monthly mortgage statement for account information, your credit card statement, any receipts bearing your credit card number, and any other financial records you may have, such as bank statements or tax returns.
6. Avoid emailing private information
Don’t be duped by texts that ask for personal information and are delivered directly to your email. It might simply be a dishonest person attempting to deceive you into providing information they can use to pose as you.
This trick is referred to as “phishing.” It can be a formal email from your bank, a request for a gift, or a request for your personal information from someone who asks you to do anything for them. However, the person sending the email is likely an identity thief who will use your information for malicious purposes.
Never send personal information to someone who asks for it in an email (and be aware of those who call on the phone!). If you absolutely must transmit information to someone, be sure of its purpose and the email’s recipient before you click the send button.
7. Examine your mail.
Everybody receives junk mail that is discarded immediately after leaving the mailbox. However, you might want to start opening all of your mail, even the junk mail-looking pieces. These envelopes might contain things like credit card applications, current bank statements, or medical bills that, if they fall into the wrong hands, could get you into trouble.
And if you’ve moved to online bill pay, don’t throw away the unopened paper bills. They might include private data like your name, address, and account numbers. As an alternative, ask businesses whether there is a way to switch to paperless billing.
8. Use social media censorship
Sometimes “fun” posts on social networking sites like Facebook or Instagram ask users what the name of the street they grew up on. or “Tell us about your first pet’s name!” Answering these posts could provide identity thieves with the knowledge they need to unlock your online information as these are also frequently asked security questions for websites.
Instead, try to be cautious about how much private information you put online and make use of any privacy options that social networking sites may offer to control who can see what you post.
Tagging where you are is a common function on social media platforms. Perhaps you’re going out to celebrate your birthday or are taking a long-awaited trip to Europe. However, tagging photos of yourself when you’re out and about allows a criminal steal your identity know that you are not at home. So, once you return from your trip, consider sharing those gorgeous vacation images with friends and family.
9. Keep your computer network updated
Identity thieves with more advanced techniques can gain access to your computer or home network and steal your information without your knowledge. If you have a Wi-Fi router in your house, learn how to configure the password so that only chosen individuals may access your network.
Additionally, check your firewall settings to prevent other devices on the public network from accessing your data if you frequently work at a local coffee shop or library or take your computer with you when you travel. A VPN, or virtual private network, can also be something you consider setting up.
10. In conclusion
There are ways to guard against identity theft, which may devastate both your personal and financial lives. Additionally, there are steps you may take to lessen the impact of the crime and safeguard your identity from further deterioration, such as freezing your credit or contacting the credit bureaus.