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5 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

August 2, 2016 • Prestige • Tags:

There are many kinds of identity theft and many ways that hackers can get their hands on your personal information and do serious damage to your finances, credit and peace of mind. Getting your identity stolen can be a devastating experience and have negative consequences that linger for years. Luckily, there are also many ways that you can protect yourself. Here a few things you can’t afford not to do if you want to ensure your financial safety.

Protect your social security number 

While your wallet may seem like the easiest place to store your social security card, it’s not the safest. Your social security number is the one thing that makes it easiest for identity thieves to cause damage. Not only could they open credit cards in your name, but they could also file taxes before you do and steal your tax return. Never give your social security number out unless you are absolutely sure whom you are giving it to, what they are using it for and that they can be trusted. Store your social security card at home in a safe place, that way if your wallet is stolen or lost, that’s one less thing to worry about. It’s easy to report lost or stolen credit cards, but once a thief has that number, it’s off to races when it comes to damaging your finances. 

Be smart about passwords

In 2014, the most popular password was 123456. While you may not be as unwise as those people, you may fall into the group of many that use personal information in their password. Using your name or birthdate may make your password easier to remember, but it’s one of the first ways hackers will try to break into your account. You should also change your password often. According to recent research, almost half of consumers rely on a password that hasn’t been changed for five years. The longer you use a password, the more likely it is to get hacked. Similarly, one of the most common online security mistakes is using the same password across multiple accounts. In fact, 73 percent of online accounts use duplicated passwords. Sharing passwords between two or more accounts can create a domino effect, allowing all of your accounts with the same password to be breached. 

Log out 

It may be tempting to stay logged in to the many online accounts you access on a daily basis. But the time you save isn’t worth the fall out that comes if a hacker gets a hold of your personal information. Be responsible online and log out of an account when you’re not using it. This is particularly important when using a public computer. Many of us use public computers often, whether it’s at the library, a hotel business center, at school or at work. Make sure never to save personal information on a public computer and always log out of your accounts. 

Be careful and keep a close eye

If you’re not keeping a close eye on your accounts and your credit, it may take you awhile to even notice you’ve been hacked, giving identity thieves plenty of time to wreak havoc. Since stolen mail is one of the easiest paths to a stolen identity, have your mail held if you’re going out of town and if you have an unlocked mailbox, be sure to check it as often as possible. Use a shredder to get a rid of important documents that contain sensitive information – identity thieves are not above going through your trash. Most importantly, make it a habit to check your bank and credit card accounts on regular basis and monitor your credit report closely. That way if something goes awry, you can work to correct it as soon as possible and minimize the damage done.

Protect your information 

The Internet and the amount of information we share there has made an identify thief’s job a breeze. If you’re not careful, they might not have to steal your mail or dig through your trash to get the information they need. Is your full name and birthdate public on your Facebook page? Have you clicked on an email link from someone you don’t know? These are easy ways for hackers to steal basic personal information that gets them access to the more sensitive information they use to ruin your credit. Be careful about where and with whom you share your information and only interact with messages that you are confident are coming from a trusted source. 

While we can’t guarantee these few tips will ensure your identity is never stolen, being smart about protecting your online accounts will certainly increase your online safety and therefore, help protect your credit and your future.