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12 Ways to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

by Lily Morgen
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Identity Theft

Identity theft may happen to you in a variety of ways, including through lost or stolen wallets and purses, mail theft, trash fishing, and data breaches. You can take steps to protect your identity by being aware of these threats and taking precautions to prevent them. Identity theft is a serious crime. By taking steps to protect yourself, you can help prevent it from happening to you.

1. Be Alert When Providing Your Personal Information

Be cautious about providing your personal information to others, whether in person, over the phone, or online. Be especially alert when you are asked for your Social Security number, date of birth, bank account numbers, or credit card information.

Your Social Security number is one of the most important pieces of information a thief can have. So it’s important to keep it safe. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your number on checks. When possible, don’t give businesses your Social Security number unless you absolutely have to.

Thieves may pose as legitimate businesses or individuals in an attempt to get you to provide personal information that can be used to commit identity theft. When in doubt, always err on the side of caution and do not provide personal information unless you are certain that the request is legitimate.

2. Protect Your Computer And Mobile Devices

Install security software on all of your devices, including your computer, laptop, tablet, and smartphone. Be sure to use strong passwords and encrypt sensitive files. Make sure that the software is up to date, and run regular scans for viruses and malware. Avoid clicking on links or attachments in unsolicited emails, even if they appear to be from a legitimate source.

In addition to protecting your devices with security software, you should also take steps to secure the physical devices themselves. For example, never leave your laptop or smartphone unsecured in a public place. 

3. Check Your Credit Report Regularly

One way to catch identity theft early is to check your credit report on a regular basis. You have the righ to a free credit report from Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian once every 12 months.

Review your credit report carefully to look for any suspicious activity, such as accounts you did not open, charges you did not make, or personal information that has been changed without your knowledge. If you spot anything suspicious, contact the credit reporting agency and the company involved right away.

4. Freeze Your Credit Reports and Sign Up for Fraud Alerts

One of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft is to freeze your credit reports. This will prevent thieves from opening new accounts in your name. 

You can also sign up for fraud alerts. This will notify you if someone tries to open an account in your name. 

You can place a freeze on your reports and sign up for fraud alerts by contacting the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).

5. Store Personal Information In A Safe Place

Keep your personal information in a secure place, such as a locked file cabinet or safe. This includes items like your Social Security card, birth certificate, passport, and financial documents.

6. Destroy Private Records And Statements

To help keep your information safe from thieves, shred any documents that contain personal information before you throw them away. This includes items like old bills, credit card statements, and tax returns. You should also shred any pre-approved credit offers or insurance forms you receive in the mail.

7. Use Strong Passwords

One of the best methods to prevent fraudsters from accessing your accounts is by using strong passwords. A strong password has a minimum of 12 characters and consists of a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. You should refrain from using phrases like “password” or readily available personal information like your birthdate.

8. Don’t Leave a Paper Trail

Never leave receipts from an ATM, credit card, or petrol station behind. A thief could use them to find out your account numbers, PINs, and other sensitive information.

9. Be Careful About What You Share Online

Identity thieves can find a lot of information about you by scouring your social media accounts. So it’s important to be careful about what you share online. 

Avoid posting too much personal information, such as your address, birth date, or Social Security number. And be cautious about the amount of detail you share in posts and messages. Remember, anything you share online could potentially be seen by anyone in the world.

10. Monitor Your Accounts Regularly

Another way to help protect your information is to regularly monitor your financial accounts for suspicious activity. This includes your bank accounts, credit card statements, and investment accounts. 

Reviewing your accounts regularly can help you spot errors and signs of fraud early. You should also be on the lookout for unfamiliar transactions, such as charges from businesses you don’t recognize.

11. Only Use Secure Websites

When you are entering personal information online, be sure to do so only on secure websites. A secure website is one that uses encryption to protect your information as it travels from your device to the website’s servers. You can tell if a website is secure if the URL starts with “https” and a lock icon is displayed in the address bar.

12. Be Careful About Who You Give Your Information To

Identity thieves can pose as legitimate businesses in order to trick you into giving them your personal information. So it’s important to be careful about who you give your information to. 

Never give out personal information in response to an unsolicited email or phone call. And be sure to verify the identity of anyone who asks for your information before you give it to them.

Final Thought

Identity theft can be a frightening experience, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself. By being aware of the threats and taking precautions, you can help reduce your risk of becoming a victim.

If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission and file a report. You should also consider contacting your local law enforcement agency.

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