Did you know that if you shop online, buy gas, visit the doctor, use a credit card, or do virtually anything online you’re at risk of identity theft? Any credit card or debit card you may have, as well as your driver’s license, Social Security number, are all wanted by thieves.
In 2018 alone, approximately 60 million people have been affected by identity theft, according to an online survey by Harris Poll. Furthermore, almost 15 million people experienced identity theft in 2017.
In addition, the latest data on ID crimes suggests that identity thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated with their methods. So, if you think that identity theft will just magically stop somehow, it’s time to wake up to the fact that identity theft happens once every two seconds.
Preventing identity theft and retaining a good credit rating takes hard work. You must be willing to keep your end of the bargain to ensure your documents and credentials are safe to avoid becoming a victim. With that being said, we’re going to teach you exactly how you can prevent identity theft.
What Is Identity Theft?
It’s one of the struggles of living in a digital age. Your doctor’s office could experience a data breach from identity thieves. You could come across a tampered credit card reader. Or you could unknowingly give your information to a fraudster, thinking that you are dealing with a legitimate site.
But what exactly is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when an imposter uses your personal information to assume your identity to gain financial benefits or commit fraud. They often obtain key pieces of personally identifiable information such as your name, online login passwords, email addresses, passport number, Social Security number, bank account number, or driver’s license info.
10 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft
Now that you know the scary truth about identity theft, it’s time to show you the best ways to prevent becoming a victim in the first place. Take a look at these top tips for how to protect yourself from ID theft.
1. Shred Everything
Dumpster diving is currently the easiest way imposters can get a hold of your information. So, if you’re throwing out bills, credit card statements, ATM receipts, or medical statements, you’re making it pretty easy for dumpster divers to learn a much more about you. In fact, they may learn enough to take over your accounts and ensure you become a victim. So, for the love of everything holy, shred your confidential documents!
2. Watch Out for Shoulder Surfers
It’s pretty clear that there will always be someone watching your every move, especially when you are using the ATM or a mobile device. As such, you want to be sure others aren’t peering over your shoulder to make note of your pin or password. And just because you don’t see anybody nearby, it doesn’t mean they are not there. In addition, if you’re using shared Wi-Fi, everyone else may see the data you submit. Therefore, only conduct sensitive transactions on secure networks.
3. Analyze Your Credit Report Annually
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or on a different planet, you know that analyzing your credit report is one of the best ways to ensure there are no suspicious transactions that have been made. If you want to be in the loop and find out everything that goes on in your account, then you’ll want to be more robust about analyzing your credit report.
4. Protect Your Social Security Number
Your Social Security number is, in essence, a sort of national identification number and anyone who is looking will be able to use it to steal your identity. While it’s true that it’s hard for someone to actually assume your identity without the actual digits, more likely, with your full name, address, and even just the last four digits of your Social Security number, an imposter could easily assume your identity.
Here are a few tips to help protect your Social Security number:
- Memorize your Social Security number
- Keep your Social Security card in a safe place
- Limit the use of your Social Security number online
5. Reduce Your Mail
With the sheer number of pre-approved credit card offers you get in the mail, it’s no wonder you’re at such high risk of someone else obtaining a new credit card in your name. Your safest bet is to opt out of pre-approved credit card offers for added security. The less mail containing personal and account details that comes to your home, the less likely it is to fall into the wrong hands. In fact, it is most effective to sign up for paperless billing.
6. Be Careful about Divulging Your Information
Although half the time scam artists have to resort to stealing your information from right under your nose, they have become pretty darn good at persuading you to divulge the information willingly. Sometimes, they tell you via email, text, or a phone call that you have won a prize or need to verify your account, which means you have to supply sensitive information. So, stay on guard and limit the amount of information you’re dishing out.
7. Set Banking Alerts
Do yourself a favor and make sure that you set bank alerts or fraud alerts. This will ensure that your transactions stay secure and you’ll get text or email alerts if anything does change. Plus, for added security, you’ll also be in a position to find out about unauthorized access promptly.
8. Check Your Statements Regularly
Although you may be diligent at analyzing your credit report, it doesn’t mean that you’re completely off the hook. You still need to check your statements and other financial accounts regularly. This makes it easier for you to figure out if someone has stolen your identity by making sure that all charges are actually legit. What’s more, you’ll be able to identify any suspicious activity right off the bat.
9. Ensure Your Computer is Protected
The computer is, no doubt, a fantastic tool to have at your disposal. But, as with most things, it could be the doorway for thieves to get all your information. Do yourself a favor and ensure that your computer is well protected before using it by installing a top-rated antivirus program.
10. Create Strong Passwords
We hate to burst your bubble here, but if your password isn’t strong enough, scam artists will figure out a way to get a hold of it. It’s almost inevitable. You should make sure to use strong passwords that are unique and hard to hack. You can do this on your lonesome or check out one of the top password managers to do it for you.
The Easiest Way to Prevent Identity Theft
The reality is that there is no foolproof way of totally preventing identity theft. However, there are some excellent ways to protect you. And the ten tips in this guide are proof that you most certainly can protect yourself.
But if you’re looking for an easy way to prevent identity theft, you should take a look at some of the excellent (and affordable) identity protection services out there. You’ll get experts watching your back 24/7 and be able to rest much easier in knowing that your personal info stays safe.