Identity theft is a scary thought, but for many people, it falls into that category of “it will never happen to me”. But that could not be further from the truth. Unfortunately, the FBI says it’s “America’s Fastest Growing Crime”, and it shockingly impacts more than 10 million Americans per year.
Protecting your identity is essential for protecting your money. You’ve been working hard to earn more money and trying to always find new ways to save money, so the last thing you want is it to all be taken away. It’s a misconception that identity theft only happens to the wealthy, but it can impact anyone. Regardless of how much money you have, someone committing identity theft can apply for credit cards and loans in your name to tarnish your credit and send you whirling into debt. However, there are a lot of ways you can protect yourself, your money, and your credit. Here are ways you can protect your financial health and avoid identity theft.
Ways To Avoid Identity Theft
- Keep track of your credit card and bank statements.
It can be easy to overlook checking your bank statements and your credit card statements, especially if you pay you bill every month online. But checking your statements often is how you’ll be able to quickly identify any suspicious activity on your account. This way, you’ll be able to take action to stop it and stop any future thefts. You can also review your accounts online if you use a service like Mint to track your spending.
- Watch out for strange e-mails or other scams.
If you receive an unusual and unfamiliar e-mail from you bank, credit card company, or other account telling you there’s been changes to your account and to sign in, it might be worth a secure call to them to confirm this. This could be an e-mail from a person attempting to steal your identity. Once you log in, they will have your account information and password to sign on.
- Clear your tech items before getting rid of them.
It seems like there’s always a new phone or computer coming out, and everyone is rushing to upgrade. But before you get rid of or sell any old electronics, clear them or reset them back to manufacturer condition. Otherwise, people may be able to find any information stored, websites you visited, banking information, and other items that can make it a breeze for them to steal you identity.
- Protect your purse and wallet.
Since we use a purse and a wallet everyday, you might not see it as a threat, but it is. Don’t carry your social security card around unless absolutely necessary. Don’t carry around extra credit cards you are not using or any unnecessary check books. Carry a purse or wallet that is secure and can’t easily be snatched or left behind.
- Guard your pin.
It sounds simple, but watch peering eyes while you’re visiting ATMs. Cover up your code. Do You Know What ATM Skimming Is?
- Enter information online cautiously.
Be sure a website is safe and secure before entering any credit card, bank, or other personal information. Don’t be afraid to call a company to confirm you are on the correct page. It could end up saving you a lot of money and a tremendous headache.
- Keep your social security number safe.
Be careful of who you give your social security number to. Ensure that whoever you do give it to, such as an employer, is doing the right thing to protect it. Any documents that have your social security number on it should be stored in a safe place. See 10 Wacky and Clever Safes to Hide Your Money for ideas.
- Protect your mail.
Heading on vacation? An abundance of mail in an overflowing mailbox can easily be snatched, and the thief would have access to your account numbers, banking information, and even credit card applications. Instead, contact the post office to have your mail stopped for a certain amount of time. If you’re only going to be going for a few days and do not want to stop, ask a trusted friend or family member that lives nearby to pick up your mail. If you’re moving, be sure to forward your mail to your new address in ample time so that any important documents make it to you. You may also consider going paperless for bills. This will eliminate bills getting sent to the wrong address and mail theft which could lead to identity theft.
- Shred your documents.
Prevent thieves from attaining your personal information in your trash. Keep a shredder in a convenient place, like close to where you open your mail or even near the garbage can. Shred anything with account numbers, birthdates, social security numbers, bank statements, credit card bills, or any other personal information.
- Have a prepared list of your account numbers and expiration dates.
This way if your wallet or cards get stolen, you’ll be able to immediately call your accounts to freeze them and alert your company that your card has been stolen. They will cancel that card and get you a new card before a thief gets a chance to act.
- Use a strong password for accounts.
While it may be easier just to use a simple password and the same password for everything, use a strong password that wouldn’t be easy to guess. It’s recommended to use a random password mixed with letters, number, and symbols opposed to an easily guessable name. It’s also a good idea to change your password often.
- Review your credit report.
Check your credit report and credit score often to monitor for any suspicious behavior or inaccurate information. If you see a credit card that you never applied for or anything else, report it immediately. You can also sign up for identity theft services to monitor your credit for you, like LifeLock or Trusted ID, which offers a 14 day free trial. However, there is a charge after the first 14 days to continue the service.
- Watch out for scams.
Anytime you are asked to give your personal information, be cautious. Anytime you get an e-mail, phone call, or letter saying you’ve won something, all you need is to pay for shipping or a small fee, it can be just a way to get your personal information or credit card number.
What are ways you protect yourself from identity theft? Have you ever seen scams or false e-mails that could have been potential identity theft plans?