Keeping yourself safe doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. Here are some tips on cost-effective ways to protect your identity:
- Password protection: Any password is better than no password, but the pay-off is much better if you create complex and unique passwords. Don’t use the same string of letters on multiple accounts. Don’t use personal information, such as your name or year of birth, as part of the password. Don’t forget to add a passcode to your phones and tablets too.
- Encrypt data: Keep your browser secure. Protect your online transactions by using an encryption software or browser add-on. This will scramble information you send over the internet. A “lock” icon on the status bar of your internet browser means that the website works to keep your information safe when it’s transmitted. Always look for the lock before shopping online, sending personal information to a website or accessing financial information.
- Be alert to impersonators: Make sure you know who is getting your personal or financial information. Never give out personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Email scams, with links from companies claiming they need to verify your password or credit card number, are very common. Instead of clicking the link manually type the address into your browser and find a way to contact that company’s customer service. Always verify that they sent the request before complying with it.
- Use anti-virus software: This is a must for anyone who uses the internet regularly. Once on your computer or device viruses can quickly gather and transmit any data stored on your hard drive or smartphone. Many companies offer free virus protection services.
- Lock your mailbox: Mailbox locks are affordable and a good way of keeping identity thieves out. If you live in an apartment complex that provides key-operated mail receptacles make sure to use your key to lock the box after use. Another way to protect your mail is to have it delivered to a post office box instead of your home.
- Unlisted phone numbers: Easy to get with a small annual fee, unlisted numbers prevent scammers from looking your name up in the phone book and calling you about “official business” or as fake representatives of a company.
- Credit monitoring services: Check your credit report regularly to keep track of your activity. Also, sign up for a credit monitoring service that will alert your when certain activity occurs on your account that may indicate identity theft.
Protecting your personal information can help reduce your risk of identity theft. Make sure you are taking all possible steps to avoid becoming a victim of this crime.