While many will be making New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or read more books, perhaps the smartest of all resolutions will be to be more proactive in protecting your identity. Whether or not you survived the theft-ridden holiday shopping season unscathed, the new year is the perfect time to start making identity protection a habit. Here are three ways you can start improving the way you safeguard your identity:
- File your taxes early
The IRS officially opens tax season on January 20 and filing yours as early as possible can help prevent identity theft. This way, you can make sure your legitimate filing gets in before any thief has the chance to submit a fraudulent one. According to the IRS, frauds typically send in fake tax filings early in the year to get a taxpayers’ refunds before they have the chance to. That’s why the IRS suggests filing earlier, as it lessens your chance of being victimized.
The IRS also recommends being vigilant in protecting your Social Security Number and computers to bolster this effort. If you receive a notice from the IRS that more than one tax return has been filed under your SSN, that you owe additional tax or refund offset for year that you didn’t file a return or if records indicate an employer you’ve never worked for or heard of, these are signs that a thief has compromised your identity through tax fraud.
- Shred all documents
With all the digital resources out there, it sounds so outdated, but identity thieves still rifle through trash cans to retrieve documents containing sensitive personal information, giving them the access to compromise your identity. To prevent this, you should resolve to shred all documents containing any information you wouldn’t want in the hands of a thief, like all those receipts you have from your holiday shopping. You can start your shredding process by going through all old mail, bank account statements and bills. Some areas have shredding events, where residents are invited to bring documents to be shredded in bulk. IdentityProtection.com also recommend investing in a cross-cut shredder, which ensures that a shredded document can never be put back together.
- Strengthen your online security
We tend to share a lot on the Internet, especially during the holidays with all the parties and gift exchanges that are certainly post-worthy. For the new year, however, it may be time to dial down on this habit as it can increase your risk of identity theft. According to NextAdvisor, 54 percent of social media users have been the target of an identity threat. Some of these victims had their profiles accessed through a hack or were sent a link to a scam website via private message.
To increase your protection online, it’s wise to never share your password or login information with anybody. It’s also a good idea to change passwords every few months and to strengthen them using long variations of numbers and characters. You can also do a little “spring cleaning” of your friends list and make sure you haven’t accepted any requests from strangers that could be on the hunt for your personal information.
On top of these tips, you can also invest in a credit monitoring service that can alert you to certain changes in your credit files that may indicate fraud.