What is identity theft? Identity theft is someone stealing your personal information like social security number, credit card info, name and birth date, username and passwords, or more to commit fraud or other crimes. Researches have shown that over 9 million U.S citizens suffer from identity theft annually, and the role is still increasing.
Recovering your identity will not be an easy task to take on. You will have to alert all merchants, banks, government entities and maybe even consult an identity theft agency to retrieve your ID. The process consumes a lot of money and takes from days up to months. So the question is, are you well protected against identity theft? Here are a few tips on making sure your information never falls into the wrong hands, and your identity is always protected.
Stay Guarded Online
Online hacking has become a trend. Most criminals nowadays have a knack for it, and if not, they get someone who does. Whether for email, shopping, or social networking, your online passwords play a significant role in your protection. Weak passwords are a treat for ID thieves! Your password should not be personal, like your cat’s name or birth date. Be sure to make it a strong combination of upper case and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Needing to remember many passwords can get tricky but try not to have the same password for everything.
Don’t shop from just any online store! Before inserting any payment info online, check the website URL space. The browser space should have a padlock symbol, then the word Secure, and the website should begin with HTTPS:// – all should be colored green. Also, only give the necessary information, which is usually starred, don’t fill in all the fields.
Secure your Computer and Phone
Make sure your computer is protected by strong anti-virus, anti-malware protection and that the firewall is always up. If your computer is at risk of any malicious malfunctions, it’ll be an easy target for hackers.
Your phone and tablet should always be protected by security apps and encrypted passwords in case of being stolen or lost. Make sure security on your computer or phone is still up to date.
Don’t click on that link!
A phishing scam is usually sent through email, but it can also be in the form of social networking or websites. Never open any links sent you or click on any external links on websites. If you want to pull out a legitimate website, look for it online yourself. Scam and spam emails can easily give strangers access to your computer, leading to your personal info.
Secure Mail with Virtual Mailbox
Mail that is sent to your mailbox jeopardizes your identity and increases the risk of it happening to you. Crooks lurking near your mailbox can quickly get their hands on your credit card statements, utility bills, and more. Signing up for a virtual mailbox with a mail forwarding service will guarantee your mail’s safety in secure facilities.
Virtual mailbox companies provide you the option to access your mail 24/7 from anywhere in the world. You won’t ever have to worry about your mail being unattended again. Most of these providers’ facilities have top-notch security procedures with security guards on 24-hour service, surveillance cameras in every corner, and robust web security. Mail envelopes are scanned once they arrive, and a notification is sent to you.
Using their user-friendly interface, you will be able to log into your account and view all your mail. You can choose to open & scan, forward, archive or shred, and recycle your piece of mail. The shredding feature will definitely be an excellent precaution when you receive medical records, credit card statements, tax returns copies, bank receipts, or other critical information. You click on the shredding option, and your mail is taken care of.
If you move more than once, you’d have to apply for a change of address with the US Postal Service each time to have your bank statements, utility bills, and tax papers mailed to your new address. With a virtual mailbox, you don’t need to go through multiple changes of addresses because your mail will be delivered to one stable, secure mailbox. Don’t let your mail be a risk for identity theft again!
Monitor Bank Accounts & Credit Card Statements
Always go through all transactions on your credit card statement, ensuring there isn’t any suspicious activity like unknown purchases or missing money. Don’t wait for the statement to come in. You should sign up for bank accounts online services and check-in regularly, making sure everything is running smoothly.
Contact your bank and make sure the fraud alert is active and consider placing credit freezes on your account. This means that the bank or credit card agency will need to seek your approval before any transactions are done with your card and prevent any unknown parties from accessing your card.
Protect your Social Security Number
Avoid giving out your social security number, especially to strangers over the phone or in emails. Many companies will try to fish for your SSN but be sure never to give it away unless you think there is a legitimate reason.
Take Action, Don’t wait!
If you’ve noticed any suspicious activity on your credit card statements, see missing bills and suspect fraud, contact your bank and freeze your accounts. Also, report this to your local police office and file a complaint with the FTC immediately. The sooner you take action, the faster this issue will be resolved.