Identity theft is a growing concern as more and more of our personal and financial information is online. While hackers can target anyone, they usually go after people who leave themselves unknowingly vulnerable with holes in their security. You can reduce the chances of having your identity stolen by taking certain precautions.
Here’s a countdown of our top 10 guidelines for avoiding identity theft.
10. Monitor Your Credit Card Statements and Credit Rating
Always go over your credit card statements to look for unusual charges. While these may be honest mistakes, they can also indicate fraud. If someone is using your credit card, you want to know as soon as possible so you can alert the financial institution. It’s also a good idea to monitor your credit with a credit reporting agency. Aside from keeping you informed about your credit rating, it’s another way to spot abnormalities and fraud.
9. Use Secure Passwords
Even with all the publicity about secure risks, many people insist on using easy-to-guess passwords for the sake of convenience. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Never use familiar names or numbers (e.g. birthdates, names of children or pets) as passwords.
- Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and characters in your passwords.
- Use long passwords with random words.
- Never share passwords with anyone who doesn’t need access.
8. Only Shop on Trusted Websites
Shopping or submitting personal information on websites that aren’t secure puts you at risk for identity theft. Secure sites have URLs that start with “https” rather than just “http.” It’s also safest to stick with large and trusted payment processors such as PayPal, Amazon Payments, Stripe and other secure services. Smaller websites don’t always have the latest security measures in place.
Remember it’s not only shopping that puts you at risk. Be wary of sites or Facebook pages that ask you to submit personal information. This is sometimes done in the guise of a contest or survey. These are not all schemes to steal your identity but it’s best to be safe if you’re not familiar with the company.
7. Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication adds another layer of security to your accounts. Rather than just entering a password to log into an account, the user must also enter additional information when the company sends a code via text or email. While this adds a few extra seconds to a task, it also provides some valuable protection.
6. Keep Important Documents Safe
While some identity thieves use sophisticated hacking techniques to capture data, others use simpler low-tech methods. If someone steals your driver’s license or passport, for example, it’s fairly easy for them to steal your identity. You also need to be careful about people seeing or taking photos of ID, documents and credit cards. Keep important papers and documents in a safe place, like a physical safe. When taking them out in public, be wary of anyone watching you. Keep in mind that identity thieves may use very small or hidden cameras to snap pictures of your cards or documents.
On a similar note, be careful to safeguard your wallet, purse or any bag where you carry your ID. Never leave them unattended in a vehicle. Don’t carry wallets in your back pocket. Make sure purses, backpacks and other travel bags are securely closed when you’re walking in public.
5. Shred Financial Statements
Another way identity thieves get information is by rummaging through trash. Always shred financial statements, receipts or any documents that contain sensitive information about you, your family, or your business. Invest in a quality cross-shredder so there’s no way for anyone to obtain information about you.
4. Beware of Public Computers and WiFi
As a general rule, only conduct business, shop, or share personal information from your own devices. Public computers are never secure and should only be used for the most innocuous purposes such as casual web searches. If you log into a site such as Google to check your email, remember to log out after you’re finished.
You should also be careful about WiFi security in public spaces. Most public WiFi is not secure and some hackers specialize in stealing data from people in coffee shops, airports, and other places that offer free WiFi. Unsecured networks are especially risky. However, even networks that require a password should be used with caution.
3. Avoid Phishing Schemes
Phishing is a favorite tactic of identity thieves. With sophisticated technology, they can make fake websites appear legitimate. Phishing emails often have alarming messages. They may tell you, ironically, that your credit card information has been stolen. Conversely, they may try to bait you with fake prizes or opportunities.
To avoid phishing scams, never click on a suspicious link in an email. It’s always safer to open a new browser and type in the URL rather than clicking on a link sent via email. If you do reach a landing page, don’t enter information that you shouldn’t normally need to log in, such as your social security number. You should also watch out for phishing in chats and messenger apps. As a rule, never give your passwords or sensitive information unless you’re absolutely certain you’re on a legitimate site or talking to a real representative of a company. When in doubt, call them back or log onto the site independently.
2. Be Careful Where You Store Passwords
Even the most secure password doesn’t protect you if you store it where anyone can see it. Some people actually store passwords on Post-it® notes attached to their computers! This is an extreme example but the idea is that you should be careful about where you store sensitive information both online and offline. For example, many apps such as notepads and to-do lists aren’t very secure. Keep your passwords in secure locations. As a further precaution, use a code so anyone who comes across your password doesn’t know what it’s for. For example, name a file with your passwords “cake recipes” rather than “passwords.”
1. Use an Identity Theft Protection Service
If you want to minimize the threat of identity theft, one of your best options is to sign up with an identity theft protection service. Some of the features often included with such services are:
- Monitoring for suspicious activity such as your social security number used in another state or your credit card number appearing on the dark web.
- Coverage for your entire family.
- Identity restoration. If you fall victim to identity theft, you’ll have your identity promptly restored.
- Identity theft insurance.
- Commercial grade antimalware, antiphishing, antivirus, and antispyware software.
- Internet service monitoring and alerts.
ConSeal from Viv helps you feel safe in the knowledge that you’re doing everything possible to protect yourself and your family. Furthermore, you’re protected and insured if the worst happens and someone steals your identity. To find out more about ConSeal and other life-enhancing products from Viv, including CreditWatch to protect your credit, contact us.