Many people rely on their banks, credit card companies, and government or healthcare facilities to keep their personal data safe. In fact, a study by Experian states that only 18% of consumers use a paid credit monitoring product to protect their identity. Taking steps on your own to guard your information will go a long way in the future. Here are five things that you can do to help minimize your risk of identity theft.
Power up your passwords. As more of our world becomes digitized, more of our personal information is uploaded and vulnerable to theft. Always use strong, multi-character passwords that include letters, numbers, at least one capital letter, and one non-letter key. Mixing up the location is even better. For example “bloG!2gO” is much stronger than “Blog2go”. Never use the same password for all of your accounts, and don’t use something easy to guess, such as the name of your dog, your street or any of the answers to your security questions.
Never give out your personal information. Anyone contacting you for your social security number or pin code over the phone or email should send up an immediate red flag. Legitimate companies do not ask for that information over the phone, nor do they ask you to verify your credit card number or bank information. This includes the persistent IRS scam that’s been around for years. The IRS will never contact you via telephone.
Stick to reputable websites and links from people you know when surfing the internet, and invest in anti-viral/ anti-malware software. Cyber hackers go out of their way to make their fake sites look exactly like the real thing. They create third-party fake apps, distribute crypto mining malware, perform audio hacking and infect your computer with malware designed to steal your private information. Keep your computer apps up to date for the most current protections and bug fixes.
Know your credit score. Regularly check your credit reports for accuracy. You can get a free report from the three major credit bureaus every twelve months. Report/contest any inaccuracies immediately. You can contact the credit bureau as well as the reporting company for details.
Lastly, shred your papers. Even though the world is moving to digital by leaps and bounds, there are still some documents, bills and other papers that may contain sensitive information. Never just toss them in your trash. An inexpensive paper shredder is well worth the cost for peace of mind.