The other day my mom’s friend surprised me by sharing that she has been the victim of identity theft three times! I hear about identity theft on the news all the time but that really brought it home for me. Identity theft refers to all types of crime where a person wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud, usually for monetary gain. As we are all using credit cards, account numbers and devices these days, identity theft is becoming more common. In fact, there is a new victim of identity theft every 2 seconds, and it affects every age group. That is huge! Here are 10 identity theft protection tips to help keep your personal information safe. This post is brought to you by IdentityForce, the Industry’s #1 Rated Identity Theft Protection.
10 Best Identity Theft Protection Tips
There are several kinds of identity theft to be aware of. Just knowing about them can help you be aware that such information is important to keep private. Types of identity theft can include IRS tax fraud, medical identity theft, credit card fraud, and child identity theft. Yes, that means that even information like your medical insurance account numbers or your child’s social security numbers may be at risk. And the tricky part is that fraud can get perpetrated and go unnoticed for long periods of time, sometimes years before people notice. Use these identity theft protection tips to help keep your personal data private.
Keep Your Social Security Number Private.
This one is the most well known of identity theft protection tips and it is very important. Don’t carry your social security card on your person. This is in order to minimize the chance of losing it or allowing the wrong person to sneak a peek. Don’t give your SSN to anyone unless necessary. Store your social security card and other private information in a safe place.
Don’t Give Any Private Personal Information Out Over The Phone Or Email.
If you get an unsolicited email or phone call and they ask for your information, don’t give it to them. These are usually scams. If you think that it is legitimate, you can always call the company at the number publicly listed for them. Not the number the random person on the phone wants to give you to call back!
Also, clean personal information from social networks. Whether it’s info within your profile, tweeting, posting to your wall, or sharing with your network, never disclose personal information such as a date of birth, personal address, or maiden name. Identity thieves friend as many people as possible and join networks solely for the purpose of harvesting information to use to commit identity theft.
Secure Your Internet Connections.
Make sure you use secured internet connections. Don’t input private data (such as passwords or other personal data) if you do use an unsecured internet connection. Of the identity theft protection tips I am sharing, this is not one to be overlooked. Thieves are more and more internet savvy and if you use an unsecured connection, you are practically inviting them in.
It is OK to say “No, thank you”.
Information such as your birthdate or account numbers shouldn’t be given to just anyone. If someone asks your data and you don’t see why they need it, you can just say, “No thank you. I’d rather not share that information.”
Collect Your Mail.
Collect your mail each day so that you will notice if it goes missing one day. Make sure to put a hold on mail deliveries while you are out of town. If you receive a bill for something you did not buy or about a loan you did not apply for, follow up and be aware that someone may be using your private information.
Review Your Statements.
There are many times when thieves will obtain credit card numbers and begin using them for small purchases with the hope that you will not notice as they add up. Review your statements for accuracy. This is one of the identity theft protection tips that really is a must because it is so easy for your information to get stolen and used in this way and if you don’t check monthly, you may never know.
All year round, we are vulnerable to identity theft and credit card fraud but with so many transactions taking place over the holiday season, we may be especially vulnerable. It is extra important to double check our credit card statements this time of year. Honest mistakes could have been made, but the holidays are also the perfect time for shady characters to steal your identity and rack up credit card bills that you don’t want to be on the hook for.
Sometimes credit card theft may be blatantly obvious but often smart criminals will try to go unnoticed with many smaller amount purchases so that they don’t stand out. Look at each charge on your credit card statement to see if you actually made purchases at the location, on that date, and in that amount. Reviewing your credit card statement to ensure accuracy may save you big bucks both in correcting any incorrect charges and to protect yourself from identity theft.
Checking your credit and debit card statements may seem a bit overwhelming, but it is an important first step in identifying potential misuse of your information. If you notice an unfamiliar charge this may mean that your information is in the hands of a criminal. Contact your credit card company immediately to notify them of any unfamiliar charge.
Be Careful With Your Old Papers.
Use a paper shredder to dispose of receipts, credit offers, account statements, and other papers. Shred anything that contains private personal information.
Another time of year that identity thieves love is tax season. They know important paperwork is in the mail/email, so they are looking for this paperwork that contains a lot of personally identifiable information. Once the identity thieves get this information, they are able to file your taxes on your behalf and manipulate the numbers to ensure that THEY get a big refund. You don’t want to be a battle with the IRS. To protect yourself from identity theft, try to keep this important paperwork safe by using only secure internet connections and checking your mail on a timely basis for important documents.
Use Complex Passwords.
Use complex passwords that are not easy for someone to guess or a computer to hack. When creating passwords for making purchases online this holiday, use upper and lower case characters and numbers. Use at least seven characters and don’t choose a word from a dictionary. Only save them in your web browser if your browser uses a master password to secure them (e.g., Firefox Master Password). Even social networking sites are becoming forms of our digital identity. A common scam is for hackers to log in to an unsecured account as you and post that you are in trouble and need money wired to a designated account.
Review Credit Reports.
You can get a free annual credit report. It is a good idea to look them over for any information that is inaccurate.
Don’t Download Just Any App
Smartphones are already very common, and will be a popular gift this season. Many apps and games can be downloaded and some have very compelling descriptions that sound fun and exciting. Read the comments posted by other users and ensure the app location is used by many people who think it is trustworthy. Review the application’s permissions to determine if it accesses other parts of your phone or location-based data.
Regularly Update Your Computer’s Software
Software companies update their software to protect you against known ways to hack into your computer. Before starting your online gift-purchasing marathon, upgrade to the latest version of your Operating System (e.g., Windows or Mac, etc.), web browser (e.g., Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.), and multimedia apps such as Flash and Quicktime. These updates are free and easy to install.
The “padlock” icon that you may have seen when shopping online identifies the connection as secure. Never enter personal information on a site that does not show up with a secure connection either in your address bar or the bottom right corner of your browser. Unsecured communication can be stolen on the way to its destination and also leaves behind an unsecured cache of the data transmission on your computer.
Avoid Phishing Attacks
Identity thieves spam year round, but especially during the holiday season. Users should be on the lookout for e-mails that look legitimate and purport to save you money or confirm a purchase. Never click links provided in e-mails. Copy the web address to your browser and check to make sure it is taking you to the company with which you intend to do business.
Never Give Personal Information to Customer Service over “Live Chat”
You might have questions on gifts you want to buy or a potential post-holiday return. In any situation in which a company requests your personal information to continue a discussion, always request a contact number for phone communication. This sensitive data can be logged by the agents on the other end and used for malicious purposes.
Disable and Avoid Peer-to-Peer File Sharing
The FTC recently concluded a study that found over 100 companies shared personal information about their customers over peer-to-peer file networks and urged them to change their security policies to prohibit this type of behavior. You can further prevent these types of breaches by removing P2P software from your own computer. If you insist on using it, ensure that you are not sharing any of your folders, as hackers and malcontents can quickly make off with unassuming tax documents and chat logs that contain your sensitive data.
Do Not Trust “Scareware”
This year has seen a large rise in the number of “fake” virus and spyware scanners that are in fact malware. Do not click on advertisements claiming you might be infected with a virus – these are tricks in order to get you to download trojan products. No popup will ever be able to actively scan your system without your explicit permission, so ignore them at all times and trust or upgrade your current security software.
Use A Professional Identity Protection Service Provider.
Ok, this last identity theft protection tip will cost you money to get. However, it is also the only one that assures you peace of mind. It protects your personal data, restores your credit, and provides recovery services.
The above ways to protect yourself from identity theft are a great starting point. However, if you want to ensure protection before something goes wrong, you may want to check out the services of of personal identity theft protection agencies. Some of these services can help restore your identity if you find there was some breech.
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I signed up and input the information I wanted protected and IdentityForce goes from there. IdentityForce does all the work. You can just sit back and relax because you know they will let you know if they detect the presence of your personal, financial, and/or credit information on the dark web.
I have already gotten a few alerts about things I wasn’t even expecting. One alert informed me of sex offenders in my area. I was glad to be aware of where they are located so I could know to keep my kids away from those areas. I was also made aware of some accounts (Zomato, Houzz, WeHeartIt, and Tumblr) that had security breaches. This means that they may have exposed my private email and passwords.
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I hope you found these identity theft protection tips useful. Have you ever had your identity stolen or been the victim of credit card fraud?