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Protect Your Personal Information from Identity Theft

Identity theft is never a fun situation. By taking proactive measures to protect your personal information, you can limit your exposure to risks.

11 Tips to Protect Your Data from Identity Theft

Take control of your privacy by putting these simple identity protection tips into practice.

Tip #1: Create strong passwords

Thieves love easy username and password combinations because they are the keys to your personal information. By being a little more data security savvy, however, you'll make things much less easy for them!  Try to use various passwords for different accounts, and include a mix of numbers, letters and symbols.

You might think your phone is a convenient place to keep track of your passwords, but in the event your phone is stolen, it’s best to keep your passwords elsewhere to avoid being a victim of identity theft. Instead, write them on a piece of paper and tuck them safely away.

Alternatively, you can use a password management software or device that encrypts and safely stores your passwords.

Need some tips on creating a strong password? We can help with that, too!

Tip #2: Be smart about updating passwords

So, you’ve probably heard you should update your passwords as frequently as you should change your toothbrush: about every three months. Lately, though, experts aren’t sure if that’s guaranteed to keep your identity safe and secure since hackers are pretty savvy about clever password tricks. Pair that with their advanced hardware and software, and you may find that simply updating your password might not be enough.

If you're trying to think of the best course of action, see tip number one and create a really random password. Experts do agree that if you have the slightest suspicion you might have been hacked, you definitely should change those passwords ASAP.

Tip #3: Check your credit report

Monitoring your credit report allows you to get a detailed look at your credit history. Once you get a copy of your credit report, which you’re entitled to a free copy of once a year from each of the three national credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), go over it thoroughly to see if any fraudulent transactions or accounts are listed. If you do notice any debts that aren’t yours or accounts you didn’t open, follow these steps to report identity theft.

Tip #4: Review your accounts

Get in the habit of carefully looking over your bank and credit card accounts every month. If you notice any funny business, call your bank or credit card company right away.

You can also set up fraud alerts to notify you when a suspicious purchase is made on your accounts. If you plan on going on vacation, call your bank to let them know where you’ll be to avoid erroneous fraud alerts while you’re having fun.

Keep an eye on the news for data breaches of banks, retailers, credit agencies and other companies that store customers’ personal information so you can act before a thief has a chance to use your data.

Tip #5: Don’t over share on social media

Feel free to post that picture of your fermented soybean sushi roll, but steer clear of posting any personal information. Thieves are hunting social media for easy prey, and unassuming info like your email address, birth date and even your children’s names are used for scamming and account theft.

A lot of social media and email accounts also offer two-step verification, which requires the site to check with you if you log in from a new place. Sign up for this to further safeguard your accounts.

Tip #6: Shield your computer

Keep personal and financial information secure on your computer with firewall, virus and spyware protection software. Just make sure you’re downloading these tools from a trusted source.

To take data protection even further, you can install a virtual private network, or VPN, to further protect your information as it travels the internet. It can also hide your IP address, preventing scammers from tracking your data back to your personal network.

Tip #7: Don’t take the bait

Scam artists love to “phish,” which means they catch victims by pretending to be trustworthy sources like banks, stores, government agencies and so on. Most commonly, people phish others over the phone and through emails, but they’ll try to get you through regular mail, too.

Legitimate companies don’t typically request information in this way, so don’t be afraid to ask questions when a business calls, and never give out your personal information over the phone or email.

If you would like more tips on how to avoid phishing, we've collected a few to share.

Tip #8: Safeguard your Social Security card

Never give out your entire Social Security number over the phone or online. Usually, a company will only ask for the last four digits of your SSN, so if someone asks for your full number, you should be wary.

If you're a person who routinely carries your Social Security card in your wallet or purse, consider taking it out and storing it in a secure place for added safeguards.

Tip #9: Don’t leave a paper trail

Identity thieves have no problem dumpster-diving for your personal info. Any mail you get with private information, like a bank account or credit card statement, should be ripped up or, better yet, shredded.

Tip #10: Be aware of credit card skimming

A “skimmer” is essentially a card reader that grabs the data off a card’s magnetic stripe, making it easy for a thief to create cloned cards or break into your bank account to steal money. These skimmers are designed to be small and inconspicuous, typically appearing like an ordinary piece of equipment. Always inspect the device you’re using your card with and pay close attention to catch any irregularities.

In short, always keep an eye on your card or pay with cash when you can.

Tip #11: Consider identity theft insurance

Identity theft protection coverage helps you quickly and conveniently get back on track if you’re victimized by identity scammers. It’s a smart, simple and affordable way to financially recover and get support when you need it most, especially when it comes to contacting credit reporting companies, law enforcement, etc.

Take the time to put these ID theft protection safety practices into place and gain peace of mind knowing you’re protecting what matters most. Contact your American Family Insurance agent and talk about how you can add identity theft coverage to your homeowners or renters policy for an affordable price.

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Related Topics: Identity Theft