Identity theft is a fast-growing problem in this digital era. In 2019, Javelin Strategy and Research conducted research that indicated that one in every 20 persons in America had suffered identity theft. Furthermore, losses from such incidences rose to about $16.9 billion, a 13 percent increase from what was obtainable in 2018.
Identity theft prevention is a challenging task in this present digital dispensation. As one of the rapidly growing crimes, you’ve got to apply some measures to safeguard yourself from being a victim. The following are all you need to know about spotting identity theft and reducing the possibility of becoming a target. This measure will help you take swift action on minimizing any damage if it occurs.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when another person uses your personal data like social security number, name, birthdate, amongst others; to impersonate you, especially for financial gain. When criminals gain access to your personal data, they might use it to impersonate you when they commit a crime, steal your tax refund, drain your investment and bank accounts, get utility service, use your name to open new credit lines or gain access to medical treatments.
There are several measures you can use to protect yourself against identity theft. Some of them include:
1. Safeguard Yourself Against Tele-Theft
One of the best strategies for safeguarding yourself against identity theft is never to release any personal data over the phone unless it’s essential, and you initiated the call. If you receive a call from someone saying they’re from the credit card company, IRS, or bank, request a number to contact them later and ensure it’s an official number. Always be wary when asked to give out your personal information through the internet, mail, or telephone. Even if you started the call, ensure that the person you’re speaking with is legitimate. Furthermore, make sure to call the company’s customer service number so they can validate the exchange before giving out your personal information. You can also enquire about the information’s confidentiality to be sure.
2. Use Strong Passwords and Include an Authentication Step
You might want to use a password manager to generate and store unique and complicated passwords for your accounts. Also, don’t reuse passwords and consider utilizing an authenticator app to reduce identity theft risk. It’d be best not to rely on security questions to keep your accounts safe. Your pet’s name or mother’s maiden name isn’t hard to discover. When you feel your account has been compromised, consider creating a new account to secure your personal data.
Be aware of what you post on your social media handles to avoid disclosing sensitive information on answering your security questions. Furthermore, you can install software that possesses several essential benefits for protecting your personal information.
3. Fraud Alert on Credit Reports
With fraud alerts, thieves will find it hard to use your name to open accounts by warning other companies to verify your identity before proceeding with an application. Therefore, consider placing a fraud alert on the credit report. You can do this for free by contacting a credit bureau. Depending on the alert type you add, it can last between 90 days to seven years.
4. Freeze Your Credit Report
Beyond working as a fraud alert, a security freeze will require you to input a password or PIN to open your credit report before a company can withdraw your credit. Unlike the fraud alert, freezing your account doesn’t expire, and it’s also free. However, you’ll need to request a security freeze from each of the credit bureaus separately and prove your identity.
5. Protect Your Mailbox
A mailbox is a goldmine for identity thieves because of your personal information that ends up there. A thief can utilize the information on check deliveries, prepaid credit offers, healthcare information, and utility bills to create a synthetic identity. It’d be best always to fetch your mail daily or direct them to the post office.
6. Regular Software Updates
Hackers always like exploiting security loops in computer and phone operating systems to steal customer’s data. Therefore, consider heeding those persistent pop-ups when they occur.
When a device company discovers any security flaw in the phone or computer’s operating system, they develop a patch and release it to its users. So if the user doesn’t install the patch, their information remains vulnerable.
People fall daily to identity theft, so you’d want to find ways to protect yourself. If you discover that your identity has been tampered with, ensure to act immediately. Contact all your financial institutions, including credit card companies and credit agencies, and banks. Consider also filing a report with the local police department. You’ve got to take the task of protecting yourself against identity theft seriously seeing as it can happen to anyone. You can always access information on protecting yourself by visiting news websites featuring content on identity security.