Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. When your identity is compromised, thieves can use that information to gain access to your personal and financial information. Your personal and financial reputation can be harmed by an impostor using your personal information. There are some preemptive measures you can take to lessen your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.
Use strong passwords online
Each password you create online should be unique, this prevents someone who gains access to one of your passwords from accessing all of your online accounts. Avoid using personal information in your passwords such as your name or birthday. It is also best to avoid using a common word in your password, as these may be easily guessed. The best passwords use a mixture of both upper and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols. Rather than using “JohnSmith1976” as your password, try something like “JoHN76$m1tH”.
Secure your sensitive documents
Everybody has important personal documents that could be used to commit identity theft if they fall into the wrong hands. Important paperwork should be properly secured in a safe, or ideally in a safety deposit box. For documents stored on your computer, you need to take steps to secure your computer from malicious users and software. The use of firewalls, anti-virus, and anti-malware software can help protect your computer from harmful software infections. Keeping your operating system and web browser up-to-date will also help to limit your risk to vulnerabilities.
Be mindful of what you share
Social media has allowed us to stay in touch with our family and friends easier than ever before. But it’s important to be mindful of what information you post online. Never post information that a thief could use to identify you, such as your home address or your phone number. A common way thieves try to obtain your information is through phishing, emails that look like they come from banks or other institutions asking you to “confirm” your information. If you receive an email asking you to respond with any personal information, you should contact the company through official means to validate the request.
These three steps can help reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft, though nothing can fully protect you from these risks. To better monitor your personal and financial information, you should consider an identity and credit monitoring service like Identity Guard.