Secrets to Stay Safe from Identity Theft

Did you know that an estimated 9 million Americans are victims of identity theft every year?

Identity theft is the fastest rising crime in the United States, yet only 18 percent of American adults use a paid credit monitoring product, and only 13 percent use a similar product to monitor credit and finances. Instead, over 80 percent of Americans admit that they rely on their banks and credit card companies to take action and thwart identity theft.

There is no other type of crime where this type of defense would make any sense. After all, you would never blame your neighbor for not protecting your personal belongings after a burglary, and no sensible individual would fault security cameras that were never installed at a business that was vandalized.

Why is it any different with something as serious as identity theft?

Secret #1: Create Complex Passwords

Did you know that the two most popular passwords used for online accounts is “password” and “123456”? Seriously.

Because of the rise of identity theft you can no longer afford to make easy to remember passwords. Instead, your passwords should be at least 8-10 characters long (the more the merrier), a combination of case-sensitive upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols, and changed periodically (ideally every one to three months).

Sure, these passwords are not easy to remember so you have to record them in a notebook or separate document, but that’s the entire point. Never make it easier for thieves by gifting them with an easy password!

Secret #2: Protect Your Computer

 Can you explain to someone else what is malware? How is it different from ransomware? If this sounds like a foreign language to you it should because cyber attacks are constantly evolving as criminals attempt to stay ahead of the system.

Your average internet user is not equipped to fight identity thieves directly. You need help from a variety of services including the installation of highly rated antivirus and anti-spyware, enlist in free credit reports, shred important documents before putting in the trash and even consider subscribing to an identity theft protection service.

Secret #3: Never Reveal Personal Information

 The internet is full of scams that attempt to impersonate someone else or another organization in order to steal your identity. Often thieves will create authentic looking emails that look like they were sent from the IRS or federal government, requesting a social security number of other personal information. Other times they call you with automated messages demanding money or threatening legal action.

The best advice for all dealings through the internet, phone or traditional mail these days is to air on the side of precaution. Trust no one. Emails and phone calls are less trustworthy than letters you receive in the mail. Do you research and follow-up with the organization directly if you are unsure the message was really sent from them.

Secret #4: Limit Number of Credit Cards

 The average American has four credit cards. Not all of those cards are regularly used, or some of them may have even been cut up and trashed yet are still active. In order to protect your wallet you should make sure that any credit cards you are not actively using are canceled and properly destroyed.

Likewise, invest in a quality wallet or purse that is 100 percent secured (with a zipper, etc) and make photocopies of everything you keep in a wallet. In the unfortunate event that you are a victim of ID theft you will want to contact banks and other institutions immediately to freeze accounts.[contents h2]