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What Can I Do to Protect Myself From Identity Theft?

Posted on November 20th, 2017

In the wake of the Equifax data breach, many people became acutely aware of the need to protect their identity from potential theft. Identify theft can ruin victims’ lives, destroying their credit score while costing them thousands of dollars and a lot of time to repair. However, you can take steps to prevent this from happening by following these steps.

Shred Everything

One way identity thieves get valuable information they need to piece together your identity and use it for their own means is through dumpster diving. The papers we dispose of contain a large amount of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that thieves can use. Stop these criminals by getting a shredder and putting all of your paper waste through it. A crosscut shredder is your best option as opposed to a normal straight shredder that leaves your papers in long thin strips that a patient thief could put back together.

Beef Up Passwords

Secure your accounts by using passwords that even the toughest computer can’t crack. Just be sure you can remember them. Don’t use the same one for everything either. Come up with a system for changing the passwords that you can keep track of, one that includes a regular schedule for changing them. One tip is to use one email address as the password reset option for everything and make that email’s password a very complicated one. That way, hackers who get control of one account can’t reset your passwords without controlling your email account also. Alternatively, there are services available that provide password protection similar to this.

Check Your Credit

An early warning sign that someone has stolen your identity is suspicious activity on your credit report. Take advantage of your one free annual report to check for new loans or accounts opened in your name and report any activity as soon as you spot it.

Be Smart Online

This does not mean stay off the internet. However, make smart choices about what you share. You might think it’s cool that your old high school friends can now find you on Facebook because you listed your maiden name for search engines to find. However, a hacker now can use this information to answer security questions for instance. The best approach to being safe and secure online is to share less and, if you have any doubts, don’t share anything.

Lockdown Devices

Many people now rely on smart devices to help manage life. Losing that device breaks this process soundly. If you’re one of those people, secure the device as many ways as you possibly can. Choose a robust pin, employ two-factor authentication, use biometric sensors if your device supports that, and make sure cloud accounts that touch other devices have a very secure password.

Secure Your Mail

Hardly anyone thinks about the security of his or her mailbox. Consider how much of your PII is included in paper mail delivered to an unlocked box and left sitting unprotected all day until you come home. Installing a locked box or making use of a mailbox in a public location like the post office can prevent thieves from swiping your mail while you are at work.