How to prevent identity theft in 2019
Over 60 million Americans have been victims of identity theft, with 17 million of those coming in 2017 alone. This staggering statistic shows just how much of a threat people face daily.
And, while it may not be possible to completely insulate yourself from identity theft, it’s wise to take precautions to help reduce the risk of it happening.
Identity theft occurs when a person uses someone else’s identity – usually for financial advantage. Crimes perpetrated by identity thieves include, but aren’t limited to, credit card fraud, phone or utility fraud, bank fraud, and employment or tax-related fraud.
Issues caused by these crimes often cause significant discomfort for the person whose identity was stolen and can take very long to resolve. So it’s important to be careful with sensitive information. Here are a few tips to protect yourself for identity theft.
1) Protect your mobile devices
While connectivity has a lot of advantages, there are also some downsides to it. One of it is that you can be more vulnerable to identity theft if you’re not very vigilant. Some of the steps to take to protect your identity when using your mobile devices are:
- Use passwords that are difficult to guess. Despite how frequently this is said, the number of people still use easy-to-guess passwords. It can easily expose you to malevolent people online.
- Use two-step identification when necessary.
- Turn Bluetooth off when it’s not in use.
- Keep your software updated. Updated software usually has fixes that weren’t present in the previous software.
- Be careful when downloading an application. Some may contain malware that can obtain your personal information. The rule of thumb is usually to only download from trusted sources.
- Don’t give important information like your credit card number to sites that aren’t recognized for safety.
Also note that when you use public Wi-Fi, your activity may be compromised. Avoid giving sensitive information when using public Wi-Fi.
2) Guard your social security number
This is the most critical information you can give out, so make sure that when you do, it’s to a trustworthy person or corporation. Your social security number can unlock all your personal data and give someone else access to all your records: health, tax, education, etc.
If you have to give out your social security number, make sure to be aware of the steps being taken to protect the information. Don’t carry your card around with you.
3) Monitor your mail
Mail theft is one of the easiest ways criminals gain access to a person’s identity. Secure mailbox systems provide an added layer of protection which makes them safer than regular mailbox systems.
You can also try having your mail held when you’re out of town. Signing up for informed delivery through USPS gives you the opportunity to preview your mail, so you can know if anything is missing.
4) Make use of a shredder
Whenever you have to deal with sensitive information in print, make sure to shred it afterward. Credit card and bank statements are prime examples of documents to be destroyed.
5) Monitor your credit reports and financial statement
You’re entitled to a free credit report once a year from all three major credit reporting bureaus, so you can easily monitor your credit reports by requesting them quarterly. You can also pay a token to request it at any time of the year.
Also, make sure to monitor your financial records, noting every charge. Take note of the due dates of your bills. Call to investigate if they don’t come in when expected.
Photo by Matthew Brodeur