Identity theft is a type of criminal activity in which someone’s financial and personal information is obtained and exploited without that person’s consent. A person’s identity information may be stolen and used by thieves to submit false tax returns or health insurance claims, apply for credit cards or loans in the victim’s name, raid the victim’s bank account or use their credit card, or simply sell the information to another party.
Who is the Most at Risk for Identity Theft?
You are susceptible to identity fraud just by holding a Social Security number, but some groups are more in danger than others.
Minors: Thieves prefer targeting children because they usually do not have credit protection and it’s easy to establish clean credit profiles using their Social Security numbers for people with poor credit histories or those trying to start phony accounts. Unfortunately, family members often commit these crimes because they might have access to a child’s Social Security number.
Seniors: Because they sometimes lack the tech skills of younger people, seniors are particularly susceptible to online phishing and phone scams.
Social media users: Those who use social media often share a wealth of identifying information online, making them prime prey for cunning scammers.
Military personnel: Active-duty service members are less likely to notice any errors in their credit reports when deployed. In addition, because they move around a lot, personal information about them is transmitted more frequently.
Ten Ways to Safeguard Your Identity
The methods listed below can help you take immediate action to make your personal and financial information safer.
1. Inspect Your Credit Reports.
You can request a free copy of your credit report weekly from each of the three credit bureaus. That way, you may keep an eye out for fraudulent activities, such as new credit cards, loans, or inquiries you don’t recognize.
2. Freeze Your Credit Reports
If you freeze your credit reports, no new accounts can be opened in your name until the freeze is lifted. A password or PIN given during the initial freeze can be used to access each credit bureau website and temporarily lift or entirely remove a freeze.
3. Make use of a Password Manager.
Your browser’s storage of all those credentials puts them at risk of malware and other breaches. Your confidential login information can be stored securely with password managers, making it both available to you and difficult for others to access. The most widely used password managers are paid subscription programs.
4. Protect Devices With a Password Or Biometrics.
According to research, 52% of consumers don’t password-protect their phones. You can stop thieves from accessing personal information on your phone by turning on password protection or biometric authentication (such as fingerprint or face recognition).
5. Don’t use Free WiFi.
Although free WiFi in public places may seem like a good idea, open networks make it easier for scammers to connect to your devices. Therefore, using a VPN or avoid using unsafe public WiFi to access your financial accounts.
6. Shred Old Documents.
Bank statements, anything containing your Social Security number, and expired credit cards are all tempting targets for identity thieves in your trash. You can buy a cross-cut or micro-cut shredder or keep an eye out for neighborhood shredding events.
7. Purchase a Security Program.
You can identify attempts by cunning internet scammers to access your personal information with the aid of antivirus and malware software; in many cases, these dangers may be eliminated. These services run anywhere from $35 to $100 in annual fees.
8. Be a Little Less Outgoing.
Always enable the strongest security features on your social media accounts if you use them. Moreover, exercise caution while disclosing information about yourself, such as your entire name, place of residence, employer, and date of birth.
9. Enroll in a Free Credit Monitoring Service.
Customers of organizations like Capital One and Discover are given free credit monitoring. You can also use Credit Karma, which offers free credit monitoring of your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports, or any of the free monitoring tools made available by several credit bureaus.
10. Online, Look for Data Leaks.
Ask the internet to find out whether your info has been compromised or discovered on the dark web. Websites like Have I Been Pwned and F-Secure are easy to use and free to input your email address. If you discover a hacked account, you may easily reset your password and check to see if the website supports two-factor authentication to help keep your account even more secure.
Is Identity Protection Worth the Money?
The best identity theft protection services include extra benefits like assistance with identity theft resolution and identity theft insurance up to $1 million in case your identity is stolen.
However, with all the free resources offered by respected organizations like Aura, IdentityGuard, Experian, Credit Karma, and numerous credit card issuers, it might be difficult to justify any extra expense. Nevertheless, a paid identity monitoring service might make sense if you want the ease, perks, and added safety they offer.