Give Yourself the Gift of Privacy
For many people, the holidays are a time for thinking of others. But now more than ever, it’s important to give yourself an extra special gift this year, the gift of identity protection. Just like any other kind of gift giving, there are a wide variety of options to meet every budget.
Free - What’s better than the perfect gift? A free perfect gift! Luckily, there are lots of things you can do for your privacy that won’t cost you a dime, but that can do wonders for protecting your data:
- Install a VPN – A virtual private network is a “tunnel” onto the internet that lets you surf the web away from prying eyes. Many quality VPNs offer a “freemium” account, meaning the lowest amount of data is free but there are monthly subscriptions if you need more. If the free level fits your budget best, you can turn your VPN on and off when you need it most, such as for logging into your bank account or paying your credit card bill online.
- Check your credit reports – You can request one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. If you stagger your requests—one in January, one in May, and one in September, for example—you’ll get an ongoing peek at your credit report throughout the year. Click here for the list of agencies, their addresses, and their requirements for requesting your report.
- Text alerts – Finding out that someone is using your identity is upsetting enough, but finding out months or even years after the fact can be devastating. You can work to prevent that kind of discovery by signing up for alerts, when available, with different companies like your credit card company and your financial institution each time your accounts are used.
Low to Medium Cost - There are a few items that come with a modest price tag, but can be good investments towards your identity protection:
- A personal shredder – Your personal documents are a sought-after source of information for identity thieves. A home model cross-cut shredder can help you dispose of identifying information before anyone can gain access to Shredding papers like health insurance statements, bill stubs, credit card offers, and anything else that can be traced back to you is a good idea.
- Document destruction service – If you have the volume for it, signing up for a document destruction service may be right for you. It’s especially important if you own a business that is responsible for other people’s sensitive information. Some services will notify you when they’ll be in your area with their mobile shredding vehicle, while others will actually place a locked bin at your home or office to secure the documents until they retrieve it.
- Software – The VPN mentioned above can also be had for a nominal cost, and it’s a good idea if you spend a lot of time online using sensitive information. Of course, strong antivirus and antimalware software are very important, no matter what level of tech user you are; prices for this software run a fairly broad spectrum, so read up on which one would be right for your needs before you buy.
Higher Cost - For some people, a higher price on personal protection is worth it. It may be true for anyone who has already had information compromised, or who has the type of job or income that makes them a particularly lucrative target for hackers and identity thieves:
- Credit monitoring – There are services that offer different levels of protection at different price points, and they will actively monitor your credit report for anything out of the ordinary. You can be alerted immediately if anyone opens a new line of credit using your Social Security number, for example.
- Data breach insurance – Again, if you own a business that handles other people’s sensitive information, you might be interested in paying for data breach insurance. This covers you in the event your network or computers are hacked and your customers’ information compromised. Depending on the coverage you choose, it may pay for your customers’ credit monitoring in the event their information is stolen through your company.
No one can prevent every kind of cybercrime or identity theft, but the small changes you make now can help you be less of a target. Connect with the ITRC through our toll-free call center at (888) 400-5530, or on-the-go with the new IDTheftHelp app for iOS and Android.
Read next: Is Santa Phishing for your Child’s Identity?