But time you use to protect yourself from id theft is always well-spent, especially considering how much time and how many phone calls it would take to remedy the situation if a thief was able to use your identity fraudulently for months before you even detected the crime.
The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reported that data breaches in the United States were up in 2014, an increase of 27.5 percent from the year before, and a Pew Research 2014 Study found that 18 percent of adults with an online presence reported having personal information, including Social Security numbers, payment card information and bank account data, stolen. Don’t rely on retailers to keep you safe. As a consumer, protecting your information is crucial so that your credit report and financial accounts remain untouched.
If you still don’t think you have time for id theft protection, here are some security tips that are quick and easy to follow. In fact, they consist simply of things NOT to do:
- Don’t give out your Social Security number: Nowadays, we’re accustomed to filling out forms for practically everything, from gym memberships to rental agreements. It’s a mistake to become too comfortable with giving out your personal information, so start training yourself to question exactly what you write down. For instance, your child’s school may need your phone number in case of emergencies, but do they really need to know your child’s Social Security number? Do you really want your home and email addresses listed in the school directory? In most cases, organizations will be fine with you omitting certain sensitive information and just giving them the necessities.
- Don’t hang onto unnecessary financial documents: It’s time to shred those old credit card applications that you have no intention of using. Keeping them filed in your home leaves you vulnerable to identity theft in the event of a break-in. Also shred any outdated financial documents, tax records and insurance forms.
- Don’t ignore suspicious activity: If your credit card is declined unexpectedly, or if you start receiving calls from debt collectors for payments you didn’t make, then it’s time to take action. Ignoring the critical signs of id theft will only make your problem worse.
- Don’t use public WiFi to access private information: Refrain from looking at private data while surfing the web at coffee shops and libraries because unsecured public WiFi networks make it extremely easy for hackers to see what you’re typing. For instance, don’t login to your email account, check your bank statement, make any online purchases or enter your Social Security number for any reason.
- Don’t use one password for all accounts: Using only one password makes hacking into your financial accounts that much easier for cyber-criminals, so create a unique password for each account, even social media profiles that you might not think are as important. If you have trouble remembering a variety of passwords, consider using an online password manager that can keep your passwords encrypted and secure yet accessible whenever you need them.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to closely monitor your financial accounts and credit report, then consider registering for a credit monitoring service that can notify you of certain kinds of activity that may indicate fraud. This could save you a great deal of hassle and work in the long run.