Identity theft occurs when someone obtains your personal information, such as your credit card data or Social Security number, to commit fraud or other crimes. Scary stuff right? Here’s some tips on how to protect yourself from this increasing threat.
Those who have been affected know it can be a huge hassle to get things back under control and very costly to replace credit cards, ID’s, create new accounts and more.
To put your mind at ease, in reality identity theft only touches a sliver of the U.S. population each year (about 3%). Most of these are also credit card fraud and not full-blown identity theft. Nonetheless nobody wants to be a victim of any type of fraud regardless of severity.
Credit-card fraud occurs when a thief uses your credit card to make purchases. More serious is when someone uses your information to open accounts or take loans in your name. That’s when you’ll have to fight to get your credit restored and your name cleared, an arduous process that can take months or years to complete.
Thankfully banks nowadays have systems in place to help protect you from credit card fraud. Have you ever found yourself on vacation, trying to use your credit card in a different part of the world, only to have it fail because you haven’t told the bank you’ll be travelling?
This is one such system that helps prevent someone using your card number outside of your general living area. Banks will detect strange transactions and automatically put a hold on your card and you’ll quickly get a phone call (usually automated) advising you of the situation.
In addition, if your card is used without your permission, you won’t be held responsible for the payment and most banks will refund the charges and go after the company that accepted the card without proper scrutinizing.
How To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
1. Safeguard personal information
Keep your personal information to yourself. Don’t be quick to provide personal information over the phone to a stranger no matter where they tell you they’re calling from. People can be very persuasive but you need to remain skeptical of anyone asking for personal information. In addition keep physical documents in a safe secure location in your home. If you’re home is broken into, this is a high target item as the information can be sold by the thief.
2. Protect your passwords
We’re all bad for this… using the same password for everything! I admit, it’s super convenient to only have to remember one password but what would happen if that one password is compromised? You’d be in big trouble. A better way is to use a password protection software that has one master password (so you still only have one to remember) then unlocks a list of your other passwords. Your password list can be encrypted and even integrate with your web browser to auto-login to sites for you. I use www.roboform.com for this.
3. Be credit card smart
Don’t carry every single credit card around with you all the time. The more you carry the more you can lose if you wallet is lost or stolen.
4. Secure your mail
Do yourself a favor and get a home shredder. This one purchase will help you immensely in keeping your physical documents safe. Anything you don’t need that contains personal information including bills should be shredded once you’re done with them.
5. Ensure computer and Internet security
I could write an entire separate post on this one point (and maybe I will so stay tuned) but to summarize, use common sense and do not open any emails you’re not expecting, especially ones with email attachments AND don’t click on questionable web pages or ads within web pages. This is the best news I can give you as these are the most common ways a virus or phishing scam gets in front of you and onto your computer. Don’t purchase from questionable websites and make sure you have a firewall setup on your network or enabled on your computer.
6. Review your records regularly
Be sure to monitor your credit card and bank statements on a regular basis. Look for anything you don’t recognize and report it to your bank immediately.
7. Check your credit rating
At least once a year, obtain a copy of your credit report and make sure that it is accurate.
Thanks for reading “How To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft“. What did you think of it? Have you been affected by identity theft? Please feel free to comment and share using the options below.