Five Ways to Prevent Identity TheftWritten by Carly Simon-Gersuk
Today’s digital world offers convenience, endless choices and ease. From your computer, phone or tablet you have the ability to purchase anything, anytime from anywhere. However, with all the conveniences comes the potential of exposing yourself to fraud and identity theft. While online services use the most secure platforms, there are ways that hackers get through and gather information. Fortunately, as technology advances so does the security and the difficulty for hackers to break into servers.
By definition, identity theft is when someone uses another person’s identifying information without their permission to commit fraud, such as using their money to make other purchases. An article on IdentityForce.com reports that in 2019, 14.4 million consumers became victims of identity fraud (1). That is about 1 in 15 people. To protect yourself, here are 5 ways to help you prevent identity theft.
1.Keep your personal information safe
Store your documents - social security card, bank account applications, insurance forms, etc. - in places that they cannot be easily found by others. If these documents or forms need to be disposed of, make sure to shred or tear them up so that it cannot be read.
For your information stored online, it is best to minimize the amount of your personal data used on social media platforms. Additionally, save files on your computer that have minimal personal information; it may seem like a hassle to fill out the same documents multiple times but in the long run it is safer than saving documents that can be stolen.
2.Protect your computer
When browsing websites and shopping online, make sure you are on official and secure pages and wifi servers. Unsecured servers and wifi spots can lead thieves to your information from your phone or computer, so make sure you also protect your computer from attacks. You can protect your computer by using firewalls and secure browsers, not downloading files from strangers or unsecured websites, and maintaining virus protection.
3.Create and manage strong passwords
It is recommended that you do not use the same password, or a similar one, for all your online accounts, and that you change them regularly. (This seems pretty self-explanatory since if a hacker gets your one password then he/she has access to all your accounts). Most websites have strict requirements for password settings - include upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Many websites now require you to reset your password every so often to further protect your information. So get creative and think outside of the box! Remember to stay away from using personal information that could be easy to guess, such as family members’ names, address, etc.
4.Monitor your credit report
Monitoring your credit report is important for not only identifying your creditworthiness, but also for identifying identity theft, as it often will show if your credit is being manipulated. Pay close attention that your accounts all belong to you and the accounts were all opened or closed yourself. Also, check your bank account statements to ensure that all purchases and payments were made by you. If there is a charge you are unfamiliar with, contact your financial institution immediately. The sooner you can fix errors on your statements, you can also prevent hurting your credit report with fallacies.
5.Use a monitoring service
If you want assistance, there are many companies that offer monitoring and recovery services for credit and identity theft. Their monitoring services watch for signs that your personal information is being used and their recovery services are to help you deal with any effects. Their monitoring services can be divided into two basic types - credit monitoring and identity monitoring. Credit monitoring, as previously discussed, tracks your credit reports from all three credit bureaus and warns you about activity that shows up. Identity monitoring alerts you when your personal information is being used in unusual ways. These uses could include your social security number, driver’s license or medical ID being used for an address change, loan request and even social media. These companies recovery services are designed to help you regain control of your personal information and finances after theft has occurred. Trained counselors and case managers can help you address the problems, write letters to creditors and represent you in dealing with institutions if needed.
As we continue to move toward a digital society, we need to secure our identities and eliminate the identity theft statistics. Moving forward, take precautionary measures and keep your information safe.
Written by Carly Simon-Gersuk