Easy ways to protect yourself from identity theft
Identity theft is something that has affected millions of people and has someone take over your identity entirely. It’s a serious problem that can ruin your reputation, finances, and even your credit score if you’re unlucky enough to fall victim. The truth is, you may not have had your identity stolen yet, but you may know someone who has suffered from similar crimes. Like any other problem, it’s best to take precautions to protect yourself rather than trying to fix the situation after it’s already happened. And luckily with identity theft, there are easy things to do that can help you stay protected.
1. Carry only what you need in your wallet or purse. Most people tend to hide all valuables in their wallets and purses. While it may be a convenience, you risk a lot if you end up losing the wallet. Avoid carrying important items like Social Security cards and their security numbers in your purse and instead keep them in a safe place at home. It is also helpful not to carry all your credit cards and never carry the PIN number for any credit or ATM card you have.
2. Shred all documents with sensitive information before throwing them away. Financial records and documents should not be left lying around or thrown away in perfect condition. This is because many identity thieves use these to steal your personal information. If you don’t have control over disposal like in an office environment, then make sure you use a paper shredder to keep your data secure. Documents that you should dispose of very carefully include bills and invoices, tax forms, credit card applications and loan applications.
3. Track your credit scores and report. This is one of the best ways to get alerts that your identity may have been stolen. New credit card and loan accounts you haven’t opened, as well as addresses and names, numerous credit inquiries from companies you’re not associated with are all clues that you may have fallen victim. You can get free credit reports from the relevant credit bureaus and monitor credit scores just as easily to spot anything suspicious and take action before the situation takes a turn for the worst.
4. Choose strong passwords and usernames for your online accounts. This is something that most people don’t pay attention to, but it can go a long way in preserving your identity. In fact, it is recommended that you avoid using the same password and username for all the online accounts you have. Changing passwords regularly and choosing strong passwords every time is also very helpful in making it harder for thieves to crack and gain access to your accounts.
5. Review bank and credit card statements. Identity thieves usually go after your finances, so keeping a close eye on your statements can help you manage a situation before major damage occurs. While professional thieves can easily open new accounts and send statements elsewhere, it’s still a move that can protect you from petty theft.
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