Identity theft is undoubtedly a nightmare for those who are affected by it. It is incredibly stressful, but even beyond that, it can be downright catastrophic for one’s financial situation, which can have ripple effects into nearly every aspect of their lives. Thankfully, awareness of identity theft and its consequences has been steadily growing, but many people are still unaware of the strategies they can employ to protect themselves. While there is no foolproof way to become completely immune to the risk of identity theft, there are certainly tools at your disposal to reduce said risk.
Create strong passwords and use a different password for all of your online accounts. You might consider it a pain to manage multiple passwords, but using different passwords for all of your online accounts is far less painful than dealing with identity theft. Using a secure password storage program, like LastPass is an excellent option for managing multiple passwords across multiple devices.
Don’t overshare on social media. It’s always been important to censor yourself when it comes to social media. In the battle against identity theft, this has become more important than ever. People freely share personal information on social media that hackers can potentially use to gain access to your accounts on the web. The general rule of thumb for protecting yourself against identity theft is to make sure that you’re not sharing personal information like your birth date or other information that a hacker could use to answer security questions. Additionally, remember to make your social media accounts as private as possible to avoid identity theft in the future.
Dispose of any documents containing your personal demographic information by shredding them. Never throw documents with your personal information in the garbage. You never know who might rummage through your trash. Shredded documents with personal information can be easily disposed of without worry of someone stealing your information.
Keep an eye on your financial statements and credit report. Actually reading your credit card and debit card statements is an easy way to help prevent identity theft. If you’re not into reading statements, consider a credit monitoring or identity theft protection product to protect yourself. All three of the major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) offer personal credit and identity protection products. TransUnion is based out of Chicago and is considered the strongest credit bureau for the Midwest region.
Be careful with unsecured Wi-Fi. When using public Wi-Fi, try to abstain from checking online banking or credit card statements. Public Wi-Fi does not offer a reliable or secure connection to the internet. Hackers and identity thieves have the perfect opportunity to use public Wi-Fi to watch what you’re doing on a tablet or laptop. This allows thieves to steal personal information and passwords as you enter them online. Another way to protect yourself is to make sure your home Wi-Fi is secured by a strong password. By doing so you can prevent thieves and hackers stealing your personal information from your home computer or tablet.
Verify discounts or coupons are from a real business before filling out an online contact form. While discounts and coupons are certainly nice, identity theft is not. Consider being more discerning with the companies you are willing to share your name, birthdate, and contact information with. A few coupons in your email inbox each month is not worth the anguish that identity theft can cause.
Be wary of suspicious emails and text messages. Many emails and texts contain phishing links, which are designed to harvest your private information the moment you click on them. Avoid opening attachments or interacting with these communications in any way. They often contain improper grammar and spelling, or offers that seem too good to be true. Turn a critical eye to any unexpected communications in order to best protect yourself from phishing scams.
As time goes on, hackers and identity thieves will continue to find new ways to steal personal identities. Thankfully there are preventative steps we can each take to protect ourselves, allowing a small victory in the never-ending battle with identity protection.