When it comes to identity theft, the traditional theft protection measures – lock your doors, be aware of your surroundings, utilize a good alarm system – don’t work. And unfortunately, the issue of identity theft continues to grow.
Looking for better strategies to safeguard your identity and your money? Read on for a few important ways to protect against identity theft.
If you don’t have a home shredder, consider investing in one. Shredding documents – such as bank statements, tax letters, paycheck stubs and so on – is an easy way to deter potential identity thieves. A bank statement or credit offer may look like trash, but to an identity thief it’s a goldmine of information: including your full name, account numbers, and potentially a Social Security Number or taxpayer identification number. To keep this data out of thieves’ hands, shred documents before tossing them.
Read Your Credit Reports
Many of us are guilty of focusing on our credit score but ignoring our credit reports. If you don’t read through your credit report at least one a year – it’s time to start! Monitoring your credit report (along with checking your credit score regularly) will help keep you up-to-date on account activity so that if identity theft does occur, you’ll spot it as soon as possible. Look out for any credit accounts or inquiries you don’t recognize, which could indicate that someone is trying to open a line of credit in your name.
Be Wary of Unknown Callers
Identity thieves will sometimes pose as bank or insurance personnel in an attempt to elicit personal details from you over the phone. While most people know not to give away their credit card number to anyone over the phone, they may be more willing to share personal information such as a date of birth, address and so on – not realizing that these details can lead to identity theft. To stay safe, be wary of any unknown callers. When in doubt, hang up and call back the company at an official phone number.
Manage Your Mailbox
Technology has opened the floodgates for fraudsters, but many identity thieves still operate via low-tech methods. If your mailbox is receiving promotional materials from any financial institution, these could be used by identity thieves to open an account in your name. To deter identity theft, be sure to check your mailbox regularly, pause mail service when you go out of town, and shred rather than throw away any pre-screened credit card offers that arrive in the mail.
Install – and Update! – Security Software
Anti-virus software protects you from identity theft by making it more difficult for would-be thieves to hack into a device and steal your information. It’s essential to not only use a robust anti-virus tool, but also to update it regularly. Identity thieves are constantly shifting their tactics in response to new anti-virus technology, so to protect your data, you need to stay one step ahead. Choosing strong passwords, possibly with the help of a password manager, is also important.
Look for Digital ‘Tells’
Identity thieves may use an email address, social media handle or website that on-face looks legitimate – but when observed closely, there are tiny clues that something’s not right. Learn how to look out for these digital ‘tells’ such as a sender’s name that doesn’t match their email address; URLs that begin with http rather than https, indicating a lack of SSL security certificate; and the use of mismatched fonts, colors, or a general lack of professionalism in the email or website. Spelling or grammar mistakes may be a tell, too.