There are a lot of factors that go into preventing identity theft, and many of them are out of the consumers’ control.
At the same time, there are a lot of steps that individuals can take in order to keep their personal identifiable information as safe as possible.
1. Avoid oversharing
Whether it’s posting your geographic location on social media or handing over your sensitive information to anyone who asks for it, oversharing can leave you vulnerable to identity theft.
2. Guard your statements
Before disposing of your bank statement, credit card bills, utility bills, even your medical bills, it’s important to destroy them. Anyone who finds those statements can use them to piece together your identity and use it fraudulently.
3. Out with the old
Be sure to completely destroy any old credit cards, checkbooks with duplicate carbon copies, or other transferrable documents before you discard them.
4. Password Security
Passwords are everywhere these days, from your online accounts to your handheld devices. If access to those accounts or devices falls into the wrong hands, a weak password won’t protect you. Use strong, unique passwords on all of your accounts, and passcode lock your smartphone or tablet.
5. Install antivirus protection
An unsecured computer is ripe for the picking where hacking is concerned. Protect your computer from viruses that will root around through your stored data and leak your sensitive information.
6. Update that protection
Having antivirus software installed isn’t good enough; you have to update it routinely. Your software only knows about the viruses that were around when it was installed, and failure to update it means you’re not protected from the latest threats.
7. Know your privacy settings
When you open an online account, the terms of service agreements can read like a legal brief. Unfortunately, they contain the permission you’re granting to the website’s owner and the details of what can happen to your information that you enter. It’s important to understand how every online account works, and how to secure your privacy settings while you’re using them.
8. Check your social media behaviors
Are you posting the pieces of your identity online, like using your maiden name in your Facebook username? Are you wishing your kids a happy birthday across social media? Anyone who’s watching now knows their names, their mother’s maiden name, and their birthdates, which are all crucial pieces of personal data.
9. Email savviness
Email is still one of the most viable options for infiltrating a network. Whether it’s sending you a message with a strange link that installs a virus or setting you up for a phishing scam, hackers and scammers love email. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s free…and it works.
10. Stay on top of your identity
One of the easiest ways to curb identity theft is to catch it early. If you’re receiving unexpected statements in the mail, too many credit card offers all at once, or if there are purchases on your accounts or alerts on your credit report, you may already be a victim. Look over all of your statements carefully for strange activity, and request copies of your credit report routinely in order to check for anything suspicious. Then take action. Don’t wait for more damage to occur, reach out to an agency immediately who can help you resolve any issues.
Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.