While there is no way to completely prevent identity theft from happening to you, there are many ways you can minimize your risk. Keeping this goal in mind, the Identity Theft Resource Center developed these 10 ID Theft Protection Tips to help you protect yourself from identity theft.
- When in doubt…Shred: Though there is much emphasis on the high tech ways identity thieves steal personal information, the risk of having your information stolen from bank statements or other documents still exists. You should shred any document that you wouldn’t want in the hands of a criminal.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet: This is a simple, but very effective way to protect yourself. If your Social Security card is stolen, you will be at risk for identity theft for the rest of your life. So do not carry it around with you unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Check financial statements carefully each month for fraudulent activity: Account takeover is a very common form of identity theft. While it is perhaps the easiest to clean up, consumers only have a limited amount of time to report fraud. Therefore, catching fraudulent charges in a timely manner is very important and this is the best way to do that.
- Use numbers and letters when creating your passwords: Strong passwords are the backbone of online security. Make sure yours are protecting you thoroughly by including numbers, letters and symbols.
- Install a wiping program on your Smartphone: Imagine all of the information on your Smartphone; if your device is lost or stolen, that information could fall into the hands of an identity thief. A wiping program allows you to restore a device to factory settings and delete everything from login information to pictures and contacts.
- Do not use the same passwords for all accounts: Again, passwords are incredibly important to protect yourself against identity theft. If a hacker is able to get the password for your Facebook account, make sure they will not be able to use that password to access more important accounts like your online banking or work email.
- Check your credit reports at least 3 times a year: This will help detect fraud and aid in both protection against identity theft and ease the process of mitigation should identity theft occur. You can receive one credit report from each of the three Credit Reporting Agencies per year at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you obtain a report once every three or four months, you can monitor your credit at a basic level for free.
- Stay safe with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when using public WiFi: WiFi hotspots are targets for identity thieves who are able to snatch up information sent over the network’s open connection. This could include credit card information, passwords or log-in credentials. The best way to protect yourself from these attacks is to use a Virtual Private Network or VPN like PRIVATE WiFi.
- Make sure your antivirus is complete and up-to-date: It may seem like a no-brainer, but be sure your anti-virus is current. There are new threats every minute and antivirus software needs to be constantly updated to protect against these risks. If your antivirus is not up-to-date, you are not completely protected.
- Opt-out of prescreened credit card offers: Identity thieves will steal mail to obtain personal information. If you receive a preapproved credit card offer, there is a chance they will be able to open that account without you knowing. You can avoid the risk by opting out of these offers at www.optoutprescreen.com.
Each Wednesday, a new Identity Theft Protection Tip will be posted to the ITRC social networks. There is even a board on Pinterest dedicated solely to the images, where you can follow new tips and see all of the past tips. So keep an eye out for our bright blue tips and join us in spreading these important images. They may help someone you know avoid identity theft!