How to Keep Your Identity Safe in the Day and Age of Data Breaches and Cybercrime

Thieve trying to steal your identity

Over 60 million Americans were affected by identity theft last year alone. Learn how to protect yourself so you don’t fall victim. Find out about more about Identity Theft Insurance and Identity Theft Protection.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft also called identity fraud is the deliberate impersonation of another person, mostly with an aim of either illegally accessing their finances or for the purpose of committing a crime. This kind of fraud involves the use of another person’s name, social media account, social security number, date of birth, and banking information.

Tips to keep yourself safe from Identity Theft

While there is no way for a 100% assurance that your identity will never be stolen, but you can take some simple steps to make it harder for would-be criminals to get your information. The following tips are good ways to make it harder for thieves to get your personal information.

1. Keep your social security number private.

Always keep it private and don’t carry your card along with you. 

2. Change your email passwords often.

Changing your email passwords often will make it harder for cybercriminals to find out your personal information. When you do change your password, make it hard for anyone to guess. Do not use your birthdate, the word “password” or anything else that would make it easy for someone to guess.

3. Call credit card companies immediately when you realize your card is stolen or missing.

Report it right away to make it harder for thieves to find out your personal information and file a police report if it has been stolen.

4. Consider a security freeze.

You can place a credit security freeze on your credit by requesting one at each of the bureaus. This restricts access to anyone looking to open credit in your name with your personal information.  The credit bureaus will give you a pin number that allows you to lift the freeze when you are ready to apply for new credit like a credit card or a loan.  

5. Monitor your credit reports and accounts online.

You can request a credit report for free every year from each of the 3 big bureaus. Keeping an eye on your credit is a good practice so you can take care of issues or errors before it creates a bigger headache for you. 

6. Make sure your computer is protected with antivirus software.

Viruses and spyware can easily make there way onto your computer, especially for a PC, so keeping your antivirus current is one way of keeping intruders at bay and keeping your identity safe. 

7. Make sure you are making secure payments online.

Use a credit card, not your debit card, or even a prepaid credit card to keep your identity safe. And always shop at a website that has a secure server (SSL). The web address will start with an HTTPS:// rather than just an HTTP://.

8. Shred documents rather than just recycle.

Every day, we get tons of email offers with pre-approved credit card offers or financial statements. If you are tossing them in the trash, make sure they are shredded so they don’t end up in the wrong hands. 

9. Watch for suspicious emails.

Phishing scams are on the rise. Don’t open emails from unknown senders or click on a link from an unknown sender. Never offer personal information through email. Your banks and credit cards will never ask your password. 

10. Maintain fraud alerts with the credit bureaus.

Asking one of the bureaus to put a fraud alert on your credit will alert the other bureaus to do so as well. This makes it much harder for identity thieves to open accounts in your name as the bureaus will be on a constant lookout. The alerts stay on for a one-year time frame. 

11. Remove your name from mass mailing lists and pre-approved credit cards.

To cut down on the number of pre-approved credit cards and offers, you can opt-out from receiving them in the first place. The Opt-Out Prescreen is a service provided by the credit bureaus. This service is free but you have to contact them to start the process. They will ask you to verify your social security number to make sure you are who you say you are.  Just simply call -888-5-OPT-OUT or go directly to the website to get started optoutprescreen.com.

 

What is Identity Theft Insurance?

Now that you understand how to better protect yourself from your identity being stolen, find out what Identity Theft Insurance is and how to get it.

Identity Theft Insurance is a policy, either standalone or an insurance addition to your homeowners for renters insurance. It won’t prevent your identity from theft but it will reimburse you for cost incurred from reclaiming your credit such as:

  • Mailing costs
  • Lawyer fees
  • Notary fees
  • Phone calls
  • Lost wages
  • Childcare costs

Check with each individual insurance company to get the complete list of what they cover. Coverage could vary from provider to provider.

What is an Identity Theft Protection Service?

If you feel like you are not able to or not willing to monitor your credit and identify yourself, there are services that will do it for you. Companies like LifeLock and IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit monitor your identity from illegal trading and selling of your information, watch public records for criminal activity and court reports in your name. 

These services also offer great information on how to prevent identity theft in the first place. Most offer: 

  • Dark Web Surveillance
  • Big Three Credit Agencies Monitoring
  • Change of address alerts
  • Sex offender alerts- When a sex offender moves to your neighborhood
  • Payday and non-credit loan alerts
  • Social security monitoring

 

Conclusion

There are always new schemes from identity thieves so keeping an eye out on it is very important. In recent years, IRS identity theft has been on the rise too- especially with the recent government shutdowns. To learn more about IRS identity theft, read our full article with details on how to keep your information safe and secure.