Protecting Yourself Against Identity Theft
Identity theft is devastating. It doesnâ€™t just mean that someone is using your good name to charge video games or clothes. In the worst-case scenario, it can lead to criminal charges against you or a ruined credit rating that makes it almost impossible for you to get financing for things you need.
There are several ways you can protect yourself:
1) Choose smart passwords and PIN numbers.
Never use single words as passwords or PIN numbers that are someone’s birthday. Always mix up your passwords and pin numbers so they are random, and use different passwords and PIN numbers for each application. Yes, it can be difficult to remember all of those numbers and passwords, but that’s better than making them easy to guess.
2) Update your passwords and PIN numbers often.
If they are compromised without your knowledge, you can thwart identity thieves before they strike.
3) Check your credit report and accounts regularly.
Always check for unusual charges on your account or unusual withdrawals from your bank accounts. At least once or twice a year, order your credit report and look for any accounts that you don’t recognize or any activity that is unfamiliar. Report any suspicious activity immediately to the credit bureaus, the companies you do business with and the police. Keep a copy of the police report so you can dispute any charges.
4) Be careful who gets your personal information.
Always check to see a company is legitimate before handing over your credit card, bank account or other personal information. When using an ATM or a credit card in a store, cover the touchpad when entering your PIN. If you get unsolicited calls from someone who claims to be a bill collector or other authority, confirm their identity before giving away any personal information.
5) Practice good password and personal information hygiene.
Practice good password hygiene by not sharing your PINs or passwords with anyone and not writing them down. Practice good hygiene with your personal information by shredding sensitive documents before throwing them in the trash. Keep your computers and devices up-to-date with the latest firewalls and security software.
6) Trust your instincts.
If something feels off about an online purchase, website or request for personal information, trust your gut. Step back and verify the company or organization before going ahead.
7) Be careful when updating your devices.
If you are tossing your phone, tablet or computer, make sure that all information is wiped thoroughly. Donâ€™t just delete â€” hire an IT pro or use special software to completely wipe the device. Professionals can trace personal information on old devices, even if the information has been deleted from the hard drive.
You want to be able to enjoy your life without worrying about identity theft, but a few extra precautions are important. You want to avoid the hassle of having to dispute charges made in your name.