Follow these tips to protect your identity to the best of your ability:
- Check your credit report: Every United States citizen is entitled to one free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, so take advantage of this and check your report for anything that looks unfamiliar or inaccurate.
- Don’t click on links: Sometimes when people are in their own homes, they lower their defenses because they feel safe and secure. However, it’s necessary to always remember that the internet is a gateway for the rest of the world, and it’s your responsibility to keep your information safe. Don’t click on links that are emailed to you from unfamiliar sources, because they could contain computer viruses. Instead, erase these messages immediately without opening them.
- Don’t save your password: Many websites and apps will offer you the option of saving your login information. This may seem convenient at the time, but it actually exposes your accounts to any criminals who manage to get their hands on your electronic device.
- Install anti-viral software: Outfit your computer with the latest in anti-viral software and firewall installations, so your device has the best chance against foreign malware attacks.
- Read your bank statements: Don’t underestimate the power of simply checking your bank accounts for unusual activity.
- Shred your important documents: Throwing something into the trash without shredding it first is tantamount to handing it over to an identity thief. If anything can be used to glean your personal information, then you should shred it before tossing it out. Bank statements, unsolicited credit card applications, healthcare paperwork, tax information and payroll stubs should be shredded if you no longer need to keep them on record.
- Use different passwords: One of the biggest and most common security mistakes people make is using the same password for all of their online accounts. This is extremely dangerous, because if an identity thieves manage to hack into your social networks, for instance, then all of your financial information will also be exposed.
- Don’t use public WiFi for personal matters: Public WiFi networks are more easily hacked into than private ones, so it’s not wise to access your email or bank accounts while using cafe or hotel WiFi. Also refrain from shopping online or entering private information such as your Social Security number or email address over public wireless networks.
Identity theft protection is everyone’s responsibility. Do your part by securing your personal information so that criminals will have a more difficult time stealing your identity. Even if you can’t prevent a crime from happening, you can detect it as soon as possible, mitigating the consequences of the theft and setting yourself up for the best possible outcome.