How Can I Protect Myself From Identity Theft?

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We’ve all heard of the essential tips when it comes to protecting our information; protect your pin, always check your mail, never give your credit cards to friends. But nearly 14.4 million consumers are victims of identity fraud every year. That’s almost one in fifteen people. It may seem like protecting your private and confidential information is impossible with all the innovations and technological advancements. But, there are several ways you can safeguard your data, so you don’t become another statistic.

Always destroy private information

When it comes to identity theft, only a few critical pieces of information are needed to open accounts. This includes sensitive details like credit card statements, financial documents, offers, or account bills. If you have access to a paper shredder, destroy the records before putting them into recycling. Alternatively, you can tear or burn the documents too.

Protect your online accounts

Phishing is one method thieves attempt to access your account online. Sending spoof emails to your inbox that imitate or mimic authentic brands, requiring you to sign in to verify your account is a standard method of getting your information. This is typical with Netflix accounts, credit card statements, cell phone bills, or bank accounts. Whenever you receive these emails, delete them immediately and log into the account from the website directly.

Ask for Information

While there are a few instances that a social security number would be required to open or maintain an account, this information is often optional. Ask the customer service representative about the purpose of the request. How do they use the SSN? What happens to your data after the call? Can you opt out of this information with other verification methods? If the company requires your identification for validation purposes, ask about their privacy policy and marketing agreements.

Track Your Personal Information

Unfortunately, once you’ve become a victim of identity theft, the damage is hard to reverse. Stay on top of your file with a background check. These reports will notify you of all financial accounts, personal information, medical details and often include a dark web scan. The dark web is usually connected to buying and selling private accounts (financial, subscription, or whole identifications). If you notice anything in your report, notify your accounts immediately. Likewise, contact the credit bureaus to dispute the charge and begin the fraud investigations.

Stop Entering Contests Online

Many social media platforms are a breeding ground for people sharing confidential information with strangers. Posts will indicate an online contest, often requiring users to share an identifying piece of their life. This can include their email, their phone number, or other contact details. Likewise, posts can also ask users for their mother’s maiden name, son’s name, or a favorite pet’s name. While these can be innocent, in the wrong hands, the details can be scraped by data miners for ulterior motives.

Never Give Out Personal Information Over the Phone

If you’re contacting a company about your bill or service, confirming the account is necessary to proceed with the call. Should someone contact you regarding an invoice, never confirm details of the account over the phone. Without proper validation methods on your end, you don’t know who’s on the other end of the call. Always tell the representative you’re going to end the call and phone the company number on the back of your card (or on your bill). This is also true for scam artists calling to confirm your social security number, tax bill, or any other threatening email.

No One Calls to Update Your Computer

This may seemingly be unrelated to identity theft but allowing remote access to your computer is dangerous. Many users have their passwords saved to their accounts, whether a bank account or your social media profile. Users attempting to access the computer by claiming to be from a computer company (Apple or Windows) want to help update or fix the product. Once given access, the thief locks down the system, often installing ransomware. They can also gain access to the accounts saved on file, including emails and phone numbers. These accounts are then copied and sold to data companies, or they find themselves on the dark web.

Password Protect All Devices

Your phone, tablet, and computer contain personal and sensitive data that can easily be harvested from thieves if not protected. Install a password on every device to prevent easy access in the event of theft. You’ll want to use an alphanumeric password whenever possible or biometrics (fingerprint) when using a cellphone. Always have a different password for every account and device.

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