How to protect yourself from ID theft
In our digitized age, identity theft is a major problem that everybody should take seriously. From email privacy to credit cards, identity theft can wreak havoc on both your finances and your personal life. ID theft protection comes in many forms, including the security measures that are already provided by your financial institutions, email and social media providers, and any other company that holds your sensitive personal and financial information. However, there are additional steps you can take to better ensure your identity is secure and to stop yourself from being the victim of identity thieves.
If you are like most people, you probably have multiple online accounts. From banking to shopping to social media, your online presence is a treasure trove for identity thieves. To stay two steps ahead of them, you should be changing your passwords for all your accounts at least once a month. Furthermore, never use the same password for more than one account. If you do so, hackers may be able to steal your password, for example, from a less secure site and then attempt to use that same password to access your other accounts.
Check your statements
Always be on the lookout for suspicious activity on your credit card and bank statements. While some banks will automatically freeze your credit card if they detect suspicious activity, this protection is not always guaranteed. If you see a purchase, no matter how small, that you do not recognize, contact your financial institution immediately. Likewise, be sure you are still receiving statements from your financial institutions. Fraudsters often try to change the address of where statements are sent in the hope that it will take their victims longer to catch on to the fact that their identity -- and money -- is being stolen. Order credit reports regularly to also ensure no unusual activity has been taking place in your name.
Increase your privacy
Identity thieves can do a lot of damage with just a small amount of your personal information. If you spend much time online, always take steps to ensure your privacy is protected. Increase your privacy settings on Facebook and other social media sites, for example, and don't include in your profile information that could be used to answer security questions elsewhere, such as your mother's maiden name, your cell phone number, your address, or your exact birth date. Also be sure that your anti-virus and anti-malware software are up to date. If you do a lot of shopping online, remember that credit cards typically benefit from greater legal protections against fraud than debit cards do. Finally, remember that privacy protection applies in the offline world as well: always shred documents that may contain your personal information (including junk mail) before throwing them in the trash.
Recovering from identity theft can be a long, painful, and expensive process. Not only can identity thieves steal hundreds, even thousands, of dollars from you, but they can also end up doing significant damage to your credit score that may take months or years to fix. Your best defense against these thieves is to take the steps necessary to increase your ID theft protection. By doing so, you will better help protect yourself, your privacy, and your money.
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