At best, having your identity stolen costs time and money. Restoring your identity is no fun. We want to give you a few helpful tips for some of the best action steps you can take for preventing identity theft
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is when someone impersonates you by using your personal data. The thief will pose as you, usually by using information such as your name, birthday, Social Security number, or other personal information.
Identity theft can result in a myriad of possible problems for you. These can range from something as simple as being locked out of your Facebook account to something as disastrous as finding out your bank accounts are drained. You could even run into more devastating circumstances, such as the police pounding on your door if someone committed a crime and used your identity.
How can you prevent identity theft?
Fortunately, there are a number of ways that you can guard yourself against the damaging effects of identity theft. Here are a few basic steps for protecting yourself against a stolen identity.
5 simple steps for preventing identity theft
2-factor authentication is a way of adding extra security to your accounts. Instead of only requiring your username and password as login information, 2-factor authentication requires you to provide another piece of information as well. This can be something like an answer to a secret question, a code sent to your email or phone, or biometric information.
2-factor authentication can seem like a waste of time when all you’re trying to do is sign into your accounts. Check out this story from our friend Johanna White. She found out the hard way why 2-factor authentication is an essential safety precaution.
Take the time to set up 2-factor authentication for all of your accounts that matter, such as financial accounts, email, social media, etc.
Use caution with your documents
Be sure to keep your important documents in a secure place, such as a safe. Don’t carry unnecessary personal information around with you, especially your Social Security card.
Avoid unneeded physical documents by setting up electronic documents. As much as possible, it’s wise to keep personal information out of your physical mailbox, where it’s at risk of being stolen.
Lastly, when you’re finished with physical documents, shred them rather than simply throwing them away. Anything with your personal information on it, such as bank statements and bills, are safest in the shredder.
Don’t click on links you aren’t expecting
Phishing scams are everywhere these days. Opening a suspicious link on a text message or email can give scammers access to important information about you. If you receive a text or email from a sender you don’t know, don’t click on the link. Instead, delete the message and block the number.
Don’t answer phone calls you don’t recognize
There are numerous ways that scammers use a phone call to commit fraud. The best way to avoid this is simply to not answer phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize, even if they are from your area code. If you do answer a call that seems fishy, hang up right away.
Some phone scammers use pre-recorded messages warning you about an issue with your credit card or Social Security number in order to trick you into giving them information.
Others will ask questions such as, “Can you hear me?” in order to get you to say “yes”. They can then use your “yes” to make fraudulent changes to your credit card or access other important information.
Even a silent phone call can be used to verify that a scammer has your correct phone number.
Be safe and don’t pick up calls from numbers you don’t know.
Use a password manager
Lastly, protect your passwords by using a password manager. If you’re like most people, you probably have a lot of different accounts. It’s important to have a different password for each account. Unfortunately, remembering that many passwords would be impossible, especially because any password less than 10 characters is trivial to hack.
The best way to protect your passwords is by utilizing a password manager. A password manager can store all of your passwords, requiring you to remember only one master password. It can auto-generate passwords so that you don’t have to come up with a creative number-letter-symbol combination for each account. It can save your passwords for an easier user experience, and it can fill in web forms, too. Lastly, a password manager generally has the ability to log you in to sites automatically.
Password managers make for a simple user experience while keeping your information protected. 1Password, LastPass, and Dashlane are well-known options.