11 Tips to Protect Your Data From Identity Theft

Identity theft is never a fun situation, and by taking proactive measures to protect your personal information, you can help prevent identity theft from happening to you. Take control of your privacy by putting these 11 simple identity protection tips into practice.

Protect Your Personal Information From Identity Theft

Create strong passwords. Thieves love passwords because they are the keys to your personal information. Be savvy — don’t make things easy for them! Try to use various passwords for different accounts, and include a mix of numbers, characters 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. 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.

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. Hackers are pretty savvy about clever password tricks. Pair that with their advanced hardware and software, and simply updating your password might not be enough.

The best thing you can do? 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.

Check your credit report. Monitoring your credit report allows you to get a detailed look at your credit history. Once you get your credit report, which you can order for free 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.

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. 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.

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.

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 them from a trusted source. To take it 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.

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. Here are more tips on how to avoid phishing.

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. Also, avoid routinely carrying your card in your wallet in case it’s lost or stolen.

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.

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. Always keep an eye on your card, or pay with cash when you can. You never know where skimmers are hiding!

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. 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.

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.

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Related Topics: Identity Theft