Identity theft occurs when someone leverages your personal records in order to commit fraud. Identity thieves commonly use stolen information to apply for credit cards, file taxes, get medical services, create falsified passports and more.
If stolen, restoring your identity can be a nightmare of a processes. These identity theft prevention tips can help you avoid the hassle. Save yourself time, energy, and cash by adhering to identity theft prevention best practices.
1. Fight phishing. Phishing attacks can take a variety of different forms, but all of them aim to have you give up personal information. Be sure to avoid any requests –whether via text message, phone, email, or otherwise- to verify account numbers or passwords. Genuine businesses do not collect information in this way.
2. Password hygiene. 57% of the US workforce stores passwords on sticky notes and 66% percent of these individuals have lost these tiny pieces of paper. In keeping your passwords safe, avoid storing them on paper, reset your passwords on a regular basis, ensure that passwords are unique, and omit easy-to-guess information from passwords themselves.
3. Email security. We use email all of the time; it’s a common communication tool. However, it can also function as a conduit for identity theft operations. Avoid clicking on unsolicited links or email attachments, as these can download malicious programs onto your device that can pass personal information to hackers.
4. Social media security. Keep your social media accounts private and make sure that you know who has access to what kinds of information. You may also want to think twice before posting information about vacations, or travel, as phishers commonly create scams around these themes, conning people out of identity-related details.
5. Lock your phone. An unsecured modern smart phone can provide identity thieves with access to your contacts, your bank accounts, your email account, the emergency photo of your passport, and more. In addition to a strong PIN or passcode, experts suggest using biometric authentication.
6. Shred it. If you receive paper bills, bank statements, credit offers, insurance forms or medical statements in the mail, be sure to shred these documents ahead of depositing them into your trash. This data can be used for online identity theft scams. But, identity thieves likely won’t be able to assemble information from documents that you’ve destroyed.
7. Tax season vigilance. Identity thieves are out in full-force during tax season. They may send fraudulent links directing people towards fake IRS or IRS-adjacent websites. They may also send out emails pretending to be IRS or government officials. Note that the IRS does not reach out by email and when in doubt about any physical mail or phone calls, you can always reach out to the IRS directly.
8. E-skimming. This is analogous to the classic gasoline pump skimming scam. However, the electronic version of the scam is more insidious. Identity thieves can collect personal information and sell it on the dark web or use it for their own purposes. To avoid e-skimming attacks, ensure that your devices are 100% protected with quality anti-virus and firewall software.
9. Ask questions. If a business or agency requests personal information, inquire about how it will be used and how it will be protected. If you’re not satisfied with the answers given, consider taking your business elsewhere.
10. Records exposure. After a headline-screaming data breach, find out about whether or not your data was stolen. If so, quickly take appropriate measures to prevent identity thieves from opening accounts in your name or from making charges to existing accounts.
Be protective of your personal information. Your personal information is valuable to cyber criminals. Reduce your risk of identity fraud by following expert-crafted tips.
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