Unfortunately, identity theft protection has become an essential life skill. What once was a relatively uncommon crime has become an everyday occurrence. In fact, nearly 10 million Americans have their identity stolen each year; however, many are totally unaware that someone else is using their identification information for their own personal gain.
What is Identity Theft
Identity theft happens when someone gets hold of your personal or financial information. They then use this information to pretend they are you. They may open a new credit card in your name or purchase a car or even take out a home loan. Clearly, this can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt - all in your name.
Unlike violent crime, identity fraud can take place without you even knowing. It may not be until you're denied when trying to take out additional credit or applying for a loan. Or, even worse, you may first learn that your identity has been stolen only after creditors and bill collectors begin calling you about outstanding payments.
Six Steps for Identity Theft Protection
Clearly, this is a crime which requires that you become educated. It also requires that you're proactive in working to help protect theft in the first place.
Here are six things you can do to protect yourself against identity fraud:
- Know when your bank account and credit card statements are mailed each month. Review the statements and check for transactions you didn't make; report inconsistencies immediately.
- Shred any documents which list financial, medical, or personal information before you place them in the garbage.
- Never respond to emails, texts, or phone messages requesting personal identification information like your social security number or credit card number. Legitimate financial institutions will never ask you to transmit this sensitive information using these methods.
- Use a firewall on your computer and install software to protect against viruses and malware. Make sure your computer operating system, security systems, and web browser are set to update automatically.
- Before purchasing products online, make sure the website is secure - there should be an "s" for secure - as in "https."
- Never do banking or other financial transactions online when you're using a public network - like a library.
Identity Monitoring Services
The dramatic increase in identity fraud in recent years has caused some people to consider monitoring services like Identity Guard®. These types of services work toward identity theft protection by keeping an eye on your personal and financial information. They then alert you to unusual activity and often will help walk you through the steps necessary to resolve the situation and restore your credit.