Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information, such as your name, Social Security number, credit cards, bank accounts or medical records, to commit fraud or other crimes.
You can reduce your risk of becoming a victim by taking a few simple steps. These include freezing your credit, monitoring your credit reports and changing your passwords regularly.
1. Change Your Passwords Regularly
One of the easiest ways to keep your information safe is by changing your passwords regularly. This is especially important if you have multiple accounts and want to make sure that no one else can access them.
Passwords are a key to protecting your personal information such as your name, birth date and home address. It is a good idea to use strong and unique passwords for all your accounts.
Many people reuse their passwords across multiple sites, which is a major security risk. It is a good idea to change your passwords for each of your accounts every few months.
2. Keep Your Personal Information Safe
Keeping your personal information safe is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from identity theft. This includes everything from your social security number to your credit card numbers.
The best way to keep your personal information safe is by taking the necessary steps to secure it online and offline.
For instance, avoid sharing too much information online, including your Social Security number or other identifying details.
It’s also a good idea to lock your financial documents and records in a safe place at home.
In addition, don’t throw away documents that contain your sensitive information, like bank and credit card statements. Shredding them is another simple yet effective way to help keep your personal information safe.
3. Shred Sensitive Papers
Every month we receive a variety of documents with sensitive information. These could be financial statements, bills, medical records, credit card statements, pay stubs and so on.
If you do not shred these papers properly they could be used to steal your identity. You should always shred any paper with your personal information, including Social Security numbers.
Besides being an effective way to prevent identity theft, shredding sensitive papers also helps businesses comply with privacy laws. Discarding confidential information without proper destruction can lead to serious legal and financial repercussions for companies.
4. Monitor Your Credit Reports Regularly
One of the most effective ways to protect your credit is to monitor it regularly. This will help you spot clerical mistakes and identity theft that could negatively affect your credit score.
In addition, monitoring your credit report can help you find out if someone is trying to use your personal information to open new accounts or access your finances.
If you suspect that you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you can put a fraud alert on your credit reports. This is free and will help prevent anyone from opening a new account in your name.
You can also freeze your credit. This will keep people from seeing your credit file and will make it harder for identity thieves to steal your money.
5. Keep Your Social Security Number Safe
Your social security number is one of your most important pieces of personal information. It is used by employers, banks, and others.
But it is also at risk of being stolen by identity thieves. That’s why it’s important to keep your SSN safe at all times.
You should never share your SSN with someone unless you know that it’s needed for a legitimate purpose. For instance, if you receive an email asking for your number, call the organization that is requesting it to verify their request before sharing your information with them.
It’s also important to remember that your SSN is a valuable commodity on the dark web. It can help identity thieves to identify you, your prior living places, your medical history, and more.
6. Change Your Address Regularly
One of the most common types of identity theft is stealing mail from your mailbox. Thieves often use this technique to steal bank statements, tax forms and other sensitive documents.
Changing your address regularly is an easy way to keep your identity safe from fraudsters. Make a list of the companies and agencies you interact with regularly, and then update your address with them.
You’ll need to do this for things like credit card statements, utility bills, health care and insurance forms, and other accounts. Change your address with these companies online or by calling them directly.
It’s also important to update your address with the government agencies that mail you social security checks and other benefits. This can be done through your online account or by calling the Social Security Administration in person.
7. Keep Your Credit Card Secure
When you’re shopping online, it’s essential to take security precautions to protect your card information. For example, only shop at websites that use secure networks (look for the’s’ after the URL).
Avoid using public Wi-Fi to conduct financial transactions or review your account balances. These networks can easily be hacked and your data exposed to unauthorized parties.
Credit cards are an easy target for identity theft and fraudulent charges can drain your bank account. Make it a habit to check your card statements regularly.
If you’re ever unsure whether your card has been compromised, contact your card issuer right away to report any suspicious activity. This can help prevent unauthorized purchases and keep you from being charged for them in the future.
8. Pay Your Bills on Time
Paying your bills on time is crucial to protecting your financial identity. Late payments can lead to fees, penalties, interest rates and damage your credit rating.
One of the most effective ways to avoid these problems is to set up a regular habit for paying your bills. You can do this by setting up a bill-paying date on your calendar or using an app that reminds you to make your payment.
You should also review your bills regularly to spot any errors or fee increases. This practice can also help you stay on top of your spending so that you can cut expenses if needed.
9. Keep Your Phone Secure
A smartphone holds a lot of personal information. This can include passwords, credit card numbers and bank information.
In the event that you lose or get your phone stolen, it’s important to make sure that this information is not revealed. This is why it’s a good idea to keep your phone secure and locked with a passcode.
Another way to protect your data from identity thieves is to back up the information on your phone. This can be done with a cloud-based storage service, or even by backing up your smartphone on a regular basis.
You should also make sure that any apps you download are safe for your phone and are not malware or counterfeits. Both Google Play and Apple’s App Store have measures in place to help prevent potentially dangerous apps from making it onto their stores.
10. Keep Your Money Safe
Keeping your money safe is one of the most important things you can do. It’s no secret that thieves can drain your bank account or open new accounts in your name if they get their hands on your debit card information.
To protect your money, make sure you never keep cash in a purse or wallet that can be easily stolen. And if you have a lot of cash, consider putting it in a secure safe at home.
You can also protect your money by monitoring your credit, checking and savings accounts regularly. This will help you spot any suspicious activity immediately.