With school out of session and upcoming vacations, summertime is like a little break from reality. However, while you’re kicking back and relaxing, don’t let your identity theft protection efforts fall by the wayside. You need to be proactive all year long to make sure you aren’t vulnerable to certain threats. Here are some ways to refresh your protection this summer:
Protect your children
Kids are home from school, which means they are more under your watch than ever. This gives you the opportunity to further their protection against identity theft. ID thieves often target children for their clear credit reports that are rarely, if ever, checked. For that reason, your help as a parent is essential.
First, know the signs of child identity theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission, if your child is turned down for government benefits, gets a notice from the IRS for unpaid income taxes, receives collection calls and bills for services you didn’t receive, or if your child’s Social Security Number was used on another tax return – these could indicate that your child’s identity has been compromised.
You should always keep sensitive documents, like your child’s Social Security card, in a secure place. Safety deposit boxes or your own safe are good options for keeping these materials out of others’ hands. You can also get in the habit of checking their credit reports when you request yours from each of the three credit bureaus.
If your children are active online, make sure you guide them in maintaining the best internet safety practices. This means limiting how much information they share. Tell them they don’t need to reveal every detail of their summer break to their friends from school – that can make them more vulnerable to identity thieves.
Stay safe on vacation
Hoping to get away this summer? Don’t forget to pack your ID theft protection, too. While you’re on vacation, you become vulnerable to a number of theft tactics, so your awareness is extremely valuable.While you’re traveling, try to use cash as much as possible. Though it’s convenient (especially when traveling), swiping your credit card in unfamiliar areas can expose your information to fraudsters. If you have to use plastic, take only the cards you need for your trip and leave the rest at home, as Consumer Reports suggested. You should also try avoiding ATMs, but if you need to use one, inspect it carefully and look for any signs of skimming devices or tampering. Make sure the area around you is clear as well and nobody is lurking around.
If you need to connect to public Wi-Fi or use a shared computer while you’re away, be especially careful about your activity. Try not to make any purchases, checking your bank account or disclosing any personal information when using the shared network. Only visit secure websites and, for even more peace of mind, change any passwords you used on your own device and network.
Whatever your plans this summer, make sure you include ID theft protection. On top of all these efforts, you can also invest in a service like Identity Guard, which can monitor your credit files and notify you of certain activity that may indicate fraud.