Identity theft is one of the most often talked about scenarios nowadays and it is alarmingly becoming the norm. It is good to talk about it and be informed yet the occurrence of data breaches and other hacking news show the ugly side of technology. As much as it can help you make life a lit more convenient, it also exposes you to some serious security threats.
Technology is a double-edged sword and you need to manage both sides accordingly. On one end, you have the speed, convenience, and the connectivity that it brings. However, this applies to all including those that only wants to make a quick buck. There are hackers and online crooks that specifically uses technology as their platform to victimize a lot of people.
One of the reasons why this is timely is that fact that as this is already the last quarter of the year, there will be a lot of christmas shopping happening around. This is a great time as well for hackers to try and take advantage of lapses on your judgement especially when you make online purchases. Even if you go to a physical store and buy the item, you may still not be safe.
According to a data released by a recent article from USA Today, 2016 saw about 15.4 million victims of ID theft. The sad part was that this figure were over 2 million more than the previous year. This means more and more people are being affected by identity theft. As the buying season approaches, it is high time to look for ways to protect yourself from being a victim. Here are a few things you might want to look into.
Look at your bank statements
It is important to be aware of your financial activity and one way of doing that is to be on top of your statements. Whether they be the regular statements from your bank giving you an overview of your accounts or monthly bill statements, you need to look over them. This is because there are instances when you simply throw them in the garbage can without even opening them.
For one, it can help you guard your finances because you get to review your accounts. Look for unauthorized withdrawals from your funds to even unexplained charges on your credit card. All these are great indications that there might be a problem. If you do not recognize the activity, call your lender right away to ask about it.
Check your credit report regularly
Identity theft can also be abated by keeping a close eye on your credit reports. These reports are the basis for your scores so you need to know what is in them. It does cost money to keep doing it on a regular basis but you can get them for free thanks to the The Fair Credit Reporting Act or FCRA.
According to the Act, consumers are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from credit reporting companies. These can come from Experian, Equifax, and even TransUnion. This is done to help promote transparency in the credit reporting companies as well as help consumers have a active role in monitoring their finances.
This is important because your credit report can show you financial activity that may not be present in your monthly bank statements. For one, hackers who gets a hold of your information might start to open up different lines of credit under your name. One way of catching this is getting a copy of your credit report. Additionally, this can also help you catch errors in some areas of your finances. The sooner you correct these, the better your score could be.
Use complex passwords
At this day and age, identity theft is usually a by-product of your online activities. From online banking to shopping and even when you simply log in to you social networking site profile – all these can be used by hackers to get your information. One of the ways they do that is by guessing your password. This needs to be as secure as possible and there are efforts to do just that. From mixing in special characters with alphanumeric characters, this makes it harder for hackers to guess it.
One article from Fox 6 News shares that creating a long pass phrase can work in password protection as well. It can be something that is unique to your such as places you have been or experiences only you know about. These makes it a lot harder to guess and extremely easier for you to remember which is great considering you would have to remember a lot of passwords.
There are a few things you might need to avoid when it comes to your passwords. One is recycling because you put multiple accounts at risk. You might want to avoid using personal information like your name or even birthdays and anniversaries because these can easily be retrieved by other people. Also, try to choose security questions that are hard to answer. This makes your account a little more secure.
Manage sensitive documents
Identity theft can also occur if you do not take care of sensitive documents. As mentioned earlier, there are people who choose not to open their billing statements. As soon as they get them, it goes straight to the trash. Believe it or not, there will be people who will go through all the trouble to rummage through your trash. Their objective is to get as much information as they can about you. Once they get hold of your billing statements, that is a gold mine for them!
In there would be your full name, address, card number, transactions, and even your card limit. With those, they might be able to shop online or make changes in your account. This is why it is important to discard paper and bills properly. You can choose to rip them apart before throwing them or get a shredder for your documents. The important thing is to discard them safely.
Be wary of sharing personal information in identity theft
Apart from your sensitive personal information being stolen from you, there are times when you unconsciously give them up. One of the most common traps are phishing sites. These are websites that are meant to copy legitimate sites so you could be fooled into entering information such as usernames and passwords. This usually targets bank sites and even online shopping platforms.
There are instances as well where online shopping through social networking sites is the culprit. You might already be sharing too much personal information enough for other people to pose as you and fool your creditors and lenders. THe general idea is to never pass out personal information to people you hardly know. Be more suspicious when there is a sense of urgency in it and you have to do it online.
There are a number of ways with how you can get hit with identity theft and your best weapon against it is being proactive with your finances. Be on alert and make it a habit to monitor your financial activities to make sure that other people haven’t gained access into your financial identity.