You need to protect yourself from ID theft. Everyone does.
And you might be reading this article by Homebody because you once fell victim. Whether you lose your wallet, have your computer infected by a virus, or bank with an institution with a data breach, keeping some key tips in mind will help you recover your identity and minimize any damage if your personal information is compromised.
If you’re not sure where to start, read on.
In this comprehensive article, you will learn some key ID theft protection tips and strategies you can use to protect yourself and your family.
Everyone should know what ID theft is. But if you don’t, that is not a big problem.
Homebody is here to help you.
Identity theft is any circumstance where your personal and financial information is taken without your consent.
In many cases, ID theft results in criminal activity using your personal or financial information or stealing your funds.
For example, ID theft can include:
All forms of ID theft can be harmful in the long term plus lead to major repercussions.
ID theft can result in lost money, credit report damage, and more.
Even if you believe you are safe online, the data tells a different story. Identity theft can happen to anyone.
You need to know how to protect yourself and your family by keeping some ID theft protection tips in mind, especially when you spend time online.
Identity theft doesn’t always look the same. Fraudsters use various strategies to steal the personal information and credit card info of Americans just like you.
Some of the most common types of identity theft include:
As an example, a hacker might steal funds from your bank account, or an identity thief could use your Social Security number and other personal data to open up new accounts and lines of credit
Most commonly, identity thieves perform this type of criminal activity to get prescriptions for drugs or to obtain medical devices and supplies for other criminal benefit
They can do this by presenting a false driver’s license, using a stolen ID, and so on
Synthetic identity theft means using information from real people to create fake identities. This type of identity theft can be very hard to detect.
Because kids don’t know how to judge situations properly, they can be particularly susceptible to identity theft if they are left unsupervised online.
Even though there are many types of identity theft, many of the best tips and strategies for protecting against it work with each type.
Identity thieves can get your personal info in different ways. And don’t be surprised.
For example, they can physically get access to your personal information via stolen driver's licenses, lost wallets, and lost smartphones.
Alternatively, a criminal might break into your mailbox to get bank statements and other financial records, and then use that information to commit identity theft and other crimes.
However, identity thieves can also get personal info online or through computers.
For instance, they might install malware into your device, which will then scour your computer for personal records that they can use for financial profit.
Alternatively, if you bank with an institution like a local credit union and that credit union's records are breached through a viral attack, both your records and the records of other people could be compromised.
This has happened many times in the United States.
To protect yourself from identity theft, three major tips and strategies are most important. You should practice these tips in combination with each other to maximize your defenses.
Keep all personal information secure and confidential whenever possible. It is a wise thing to do.
Follow this rule of thumb: if you don’t need to provide the information in question, don’t.
That extends to your birthday, security question answers, where you live, where you went to school, and so on.
Even a seemingly harmless data point can be used by an identity thief to find more information about you or your family members.
Keeping your information secure also means practicing several secondary tips and strategies, like:
You should take care to monitor all of your credit reports and accounts. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each big credit bureau.
Therefore, you should review your credit reports annually.
If you notice inaccurate, fraudulent, or suspicious activity on your credit reports, it could be an important sign that someone has gotten access to your personal information or a sign of major identity theft.
Once you know this, you can dispute inaccurate records on your credit report, boosting your credit score and preventing the fraudster from continuing to use your information.
Keep an eye on your bank account and all other financial accounts you have. Again, if you notice any suspicious activities, contact your banking branch or other organization and tell them.
They can cancel credit cards that might be compromised, notify lenders that you didn’t actually take out a loan, etc.
If you notice something suspicious in free annual credit reports or elsewhere, you can report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission, your bank, and even the police.
If you have an identity theft protection service, they will help you report the theft and prevent it from happening in the first place.
Make it a habit to always ask questions before sharing information with another party, particularly over the Internet or the phone.
For example, if someone calls you on your cell phone claiming to be a government agent, and they say they need your personal information, ask many key questions like:
Even after asking these questions, they might still not be who they claim to be.
Many fraudsters will not continue their attempt to scam you if you ask a few basic questions.
If a person calls you asking for personal information and can’t answer the above questions, odds are that they are not legitimate actors and should be ignored.
In addition to the above major strategies, you should keep these other ID theft protection tips in mind.
For starters, always use strong passwords for each of your accounts. It is very essential.
A strong password should include upper and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers.
Something like ItP@ssible1. This is just a suggestion.
More importantly, don’t use the same password for two different accounts; all that does is compromise two accounts if one of your passwords is guest or stolen by an identity thief.
If you have trouble remembering your different passwords, use a password manager software tool.
That will store your passwords and enable you to quickly put them into account fields when needed.
Don't leave your mail to pile up in your mailbox. Collect it daily, or at least every few days at a minimum.
The longer your mail is in your mailbox, the more vulnerable it is to being stolen by a motivated thief.
Identity thieves can get a lot of personal information from credit card offers, bank statements, and other paperwork that can end up in your mailbox.
For even better protection, tell your bank to stop sending you paper bank statements and opt for paperless statements.
By the same token, contact your bank or credit union and tell them to opt you out of prescreened credit card offers.
Not only will this reduce the amount of junk mail you have to sift through every day, but it will also prevent identity thieves from using the traces of information in those offers against you or getting access to other accounts.
You can ask each of the big credit bureaus for a credit freeze. It prevents your credit score from changing and anyone, including yourself, from opening up new lines of credit or accounts under your name.
This is an effective tool if you think that you have been victimized by identity theft and want to prevent the identity thief from continuing to use your personal information while you proceed with other steps.
If you have old bank statements, records, and other paperwork that includes personal information, shred all of those papers.
Then dispose of them securely by burning them or throwing them away in the trash once they have been properly shredded.
By shredding the important documents related to your finances when you don’t need them, you prevent identity thieves from ever getting their hands on those papers and using them against you.
You should never leave bank statements and similar paperwork in the office or anywhere someone could easily steal them.
You probably already have antivirus software on your desktop computer, but you should also have it on your mobile device.
Your mobile phone is a potential vector for malware viruses and other digital attacks that could scoop your personal information and use it for identity theft.
Be sure to load up your phone with a good antivirus software suite.
Sometimes, you can get antivirus protection from the provider offering desktop antivirus protection.
Don’t forget to keep your antivirus updated regularly so it is always ready to intercept new virus types!
2FA, or two-factor authentication, is an optional security feature at most banks, credit unions, and other websites.
You should always enable two-factor authentication, which requires you to prove your identity using two different means, like a password and security question or a password and fingerprint.
This is a good defense against identity theft since it adds an additional layer of security that a potential thief has to cross if they want to get access to your money or personal info.
When you purchase a new phone, tablet, or other electronic device, completely factory reset and wipe your old device before recycling it or throwing it away.
All devices can still be booted up by those with the right chargers, and the last thing you want is an identity thief getting access to everything on your old phone because you forgot to wipe it before recycling it.
Phishing scams involve someone emailing you posing as a legitimate authority or trying to get you to open an email to install a virus into your computer system.
Educate yourself about phishing scams and other scams that you might fall for.
Read similar articles from Homebody on ID theft here.
For example, you should never open a suspicious email or an email from a sender you don’t recognize.
In some cases, even opening a phishing email is enough for a potential identity thief to get access to personal info.
Your best bet is to delete emails from people you don't recognize.
Ensure to teach your kids about this, as well as any employees in your business who might be vulnerable to phishing scams of any type.
This is very important if you have kids.
You should monitor the online activity of your children whenever possible.
For example, don’t let your kids go online without your watch. Or you can install parental blockers on social media and other potentially harmful sites.
Kids can easily be duped into giving away personal info by people in chat rooms or over online gaming systems.
This is dangerous for you and your children.
If it’s possible, try to prevent your kids from speaking to strangers at all online. If they do talk with strangers, ensure you are in the room so you can listen to the conversation and interrupt if needed.
ID theft protection is a matter of due diligence, careful online activity, and using the right tools.
By keeping all the above tips in mind, you'll be well-equipped and ready to protect yourself and your family against ID theft.
Don't forget to sign up for an ID theft protection service with your antivirus provider immediately!
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