How to Protect Your Identity

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Hi guys and gals! I’m really hoping you find today’s post helpful and valuable. In this age of everything digital, have you thought about making sure your identity is protected?  Probably not, and that’s what identity thieves are betting on when they are scouting their next prey.

It gets easy to forget just how much of our personal information is vulnerable to identity theft, and by the time we find out our information has been compromised, chances are, our bank accounts and identities have been hacked. Not good.

Let’s talk about some great tips today to protect your identity.

1. DON’T VISIT SUSPICIOUS WEBSITES

There are identity thieves trying to “phish” their way to your information by way of deception. It is very common for thieves to set up fake websites that look like the real thing and then entice their victims to enter in their personal information into these fake sites. One of the most important things you can do is to never enter your personal information into a site that’s not secure, or a site with which you are not familiar.

2. USE STRONG PASSWORDS

Websites these days, at least the big ones, are getting much better about requiring stronger passwords. A good password is usually 8-10 characters, includes upper and lower case characters, numbers, and a mixture of symbols. Whatever you do, don’t use a password that’s easy for someone to hack. Also, whenever changing passwords, using the same password except for changing the number is not recommended. Identity thieves know that many people like to keep the same password, and that often times changing only the number to the next number in the sequence is a common move. Change your password completely every time you are prompted.

3. INSTALL ANTIVIRUS/MALWARE SOFTWARE

Having a stable antivirus/malware application installed on your device is critical in safeguarding your data. I use a free antivirus app called AVG and MalwareBytes to scan for malware and registry errors. Using your computer without an antivirus application opens your system up to attack, and more importantly, identity theft.

4. BE SELECTIVE ABOUT SHARING PERSONAL INFORMATION

I’m sure most of you are connected to all of the major social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Prying eyes are just waiting for the right information to be posted to steal your identity. Be extremely selective what type of personal information you post online and never share it with those you don’t know.

5. INVEST IN IDENTITY THEFT PROTECTION

Investing in monthly identity theft monitoring is a great investment to make. There are many companies to choose from in the identity protection market, but I highly recommend Identity Guard. Identity Guard provides you with continuous monitoring and alerts, quarterly 3-bureau credit reports, and a dedicated case manager, among other services. Click here to get your free trial of Identity Guard

6. BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS

If you are one to work on your laptop or tablet in public, be aware of who is around you. Don’t position your screen where anyone else can see the information on it, and be careful when working with your personal information over public networks. Identity thieves use personal networks to hack into your device, and chances are you’ll never know it.

7. DON’T PUT OUTGOING CHECKS IN YOUR MAILBOX

I don’t know of too many people today who still pay bills through a physical check and drop it in their mailbox. Identity thieves can easily stroll through the neighborhood, swipe the envelopes, and steal the routing and account number of off checks. If you are going to pay with a physical check, take it to the post office and drop it off, or physically hand it to your postal carrier.

8. NEVER PAY AN UNKNOWN SELLER BY CHECK OR MONEY ORDER

If you are one to participate in online transactions, such as eBay, never agree to pay for your items via check or money order. It’s nearly impossible to track these items and makes it much harder to recuperate lost funds if an item never arrives. If you pay with a credit card, you can dispute the charges much easier.

9. MONITOR STATEMENTS REGULARLY

Most of us probably don’t check our statements very often. With the 24/7 access to mobile banking or apps to our bills, we know our balances left and right. Make it a regular habit, though, to check for suspicious activity and report any suspicious activity to the appropriate institution.

10. KEEP YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY CARD LOCKED AWAY

I never take my Social Security card out of my locked filing cabinet, unless I’m going somewhere that requires me present it to them (government agency, etc). There is absolutely no need to keep a copy in your wallet or purse, because if it’s ever stolen, the identity thief has everything he or she needs to do the dirty work of hacking your life. Unless you absolutely need it every day, leave the Social Security card at home in a secure location.

11. BE DILIGENT IN IDENTIFYING SPAM

Identity thieves are very smart today in terms of making spam look legit. Most email clients and providers have sophisticated tools built in, but they will never be able to catch everything. Before clicking on links in emails that appear legit, verify the sender’s email address and hover over the links to check for spammy or fictitious websites.

12. SECURE YOUR CELL PHONE

Securing your cell phone is important in safeguarding your phone’s content. Set a strong password and make sure you have a phone location app installed in case you lose it while traveling.  If you are traveling, remove any sensitive apps you may not need while on the trip. You can always reinstall them once your trip is over.

13. EDUCATE YOUR KIDS

If you have kids, it’s a smart idea to get them conditioned to looking for identity theft red flags from an early age. Teach them to never give money to an unknown source and make sure they understand the importance of keeping their personal information secured.

Stay one step ahead…

I hope that these tips help you and your family in the fight against identity theft. The most important things you can do include securing your personal information and staying one step ahead of would-be thieves.  Keep yourself in the know about privacy tips and learn about the new ways thieves are trying to steal information. Knowing these things will greatly reduce the chance of cyber or identity theft.

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