Identity theft occurs when someone obtains your personal information and uses it to their advantage. It can cost you a fortune if you’re not quick enough to notice that you’ve become a victim of this crime.
There are many ways to steal your personal information – online, bank accounts, and receipts. However, there are also numerous ways to protect you from identity thieves.
Here are few tips to remember to avoid becoming a victim yourself.
1. Be cautious with your personal information
The number one reason for identity theft is carelessness. People sometimes tend to be too trustworthy of their environment that they let their guard down for a while.
Do not disclose sensitive information to anyone and anywhere as much as possible. When someone contacts you asking for personal information, be sure first you know who you’re dealing with. Ask for the company they represent, what the information is for, and all kinds of query to confirm that it’s a legitimate call.
Stash your personal information somewhere safe and lock it up. The safest place to keep personal information is in your head.
2. Be wary on where you use your card
Even if you think you’re in the safest place to do financial transactions, don’t be too lax and too trustworthy.
When using your card, be wary of shoulder surfers. They can put small cameras above machines or they can watch you over your shoulder while you enter your password.
Remember to always keep your guard up.
3. Use strong passwords
Sure “qwerty123” has numbers and letters in it, but it’s definitely not the best choice for a password.
Incorporate spaces, special characters, and lowercase and uppercase letters. Whatever your password is, it should not be a word that’s found in the dictionary.
4. Be wary of online purchases
Be sure that you are on a legitimate website before doing any kind of transaction. Look for the “https” in the address bar when you’re in a site.
Be alert for spams or pop-ups which mimic legitimate banks or businesses to obtain your personal information, which they use to access your accounts.
5. Don’t open emails from dubious sources
Scrutinize the sender of the e-mail before doing anything. Make sure that it came from an authentic source.
Personal information shouldn’t be disclosed through e-mail. Authentic websites ask for your login name and password before proceeding with editing account info. They would never ask for your info through e-mail.
Also, if an e-mail asks you to download an attachment or a software program, it definitely is a scam. These programs could fetch vital data from your computer and could even cause system breakdowns.
6. Purge paper trails
Bills, receipts and other financial statements contain sensitive information.
Don’t just crumple and throw them in the bin. Shred them, tear them, or burn them – whichever you prefer as long as the information in it won’t be readable.
7. Don’t transact over public WiFi
Publicly available internet connection is very unsecure. Avoid doing your financial transactions in a café or someplace where public WiFi is free.
Hackers and phishers can hack into private networks and even heavily defended government servers. What more against an unprotected network?
8. Have an updated anti-virus and anti-malware programs
Identity thieves are using viruses and harmful programs known as malware to steal Americans’ financial information, says Michael McKeown, supervisory special agent, FBI Cyber Division.
Update your protection software to keep these damaging programs at bay. Your browser also has its own anti-malware and anti-spam features so keeping them up-to-date is also good.
Additionally, keep financial information away from your PC or any electronic gadget.
9. Closely monitor your credit card and bank accounts
Regularly check your statements for any discrepancies. Frauds usually take advantage of the time they get ahold of your account and the time it takes before you notice any abnormalities in your account.
Check it from time to time and report any irregularity you see.