Most tech-savvy consumers are aware of the dangers of sharing personal information online. By now, the horror stories of stolen identities have circulated far enough that (hopefully) and internet-based request for your Social Security number or checking account number would be an automatic red flag.
But with the seemingly daily reports of hackers working their way into major corporate accounts, consumers are becoming more and more wary of even using their cards in physical locations. Target is one of the largest and most widely recognized companies to have suffered an account breach that left an unknown number of customers’ accounts at risk; citizens in California who used the state’s streamlined online payment system to renew their driver’s licenses and license plates were possibly at risk of having their account information stolen. The extent of the damage in both of those cases is still uncalculated, and they are far from alone.
Short of never shopping or renewing your license again, what’s a consumer to do?
First, you can take preventive measures by keeping your accounts and your passwords secure. Don’t follow the increasingly popular trend of generating one password that only changes one letter or number for each different site you use; that practice is courting identity theft danger, especially if you’re consistent about it.
Also, be sure to keep routine tabs on your accounts. Don’t wait for an evening news story to tell you that your personal information may have been accessed. Read your account statements carefully to look for suspicious activity, and check your credit report each year to ensure that no new credit cards have been opened in your name without your knowledge.
There are a few proactive things you can do as well. With the availability of free checking accounts and low-interest credit cards, some savvy shoppers have taken to establishing low-limit accounts that they use specifically for online transactions. By linking the smaller cards or checking accounts to their online shopping and then only transferring money to those accounts when they make purchases online, they’re limiting the amount of damage and hassle that a thief can cause.
Questions about identity theft? Connect with the ITRC through our toll-free call center at (888) 400-5530, live chat feature or on-the-go through our IDTheftHelp app for iOS and Android.