Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Common sense used to be the best way to protect yourself from identity theft. Collect mail in a timely manner, store your social security card in a safe place and shred sensitive documents.
Today we live in a digital world. An identity thief can drain our bank account in seconds if our data is not secure. If you don’t catch it quickly, it may be too late to recover the stolen funds. According to LifeLock, 1 in 4 people has been affected by identity theft online. This year alone, 15 million people lost an estimated $16 billion in identity theft scams.
Five Types of Identity Theft
There are multiple ways our identity can be stolen. The four common types of identity theft include:
- Child Identity Theft
- Tax Identity Theft
- Medical Identity Theft
- Senior Identity Theft
- Social Identity Theft
Four Ways to Protect Your Identity Online
Identity thieves are always coming up with new ways to access your personal information. There are four important things you must do to protect your identity. If your account is more secure, a hacker usually moves on to an easier target. Here are the best things you can do to protect your identity:
1. Prioritize Passwords
- Use a password manager like LastPass to store unique, randomized passwords for all your logins. Learn more about effective passwords in our recent post, How to Create Secure Passwords.
- Use two factor authentication whenever it’s available. Examples would include a code texted to your smartphone, or the security questions a bank uses for your account, after you input your password. For security questions, use answers only you would know, ones that a hacker could not find online.
- Use passphrases instead of passwords. Longer passphrases are harder to crack, and hackers will typically move on to an easier target.
2. Go paperless where you can – Anything in your mailbox can be stolen more easily than online. Shred every paper document with your personal information before you discard it.
3. Monitor your credit reports and bank statements. If credit fraud isn’t caught right away, often the account owner is liable for payment. The latest tax scam involved hackers stealing tax information and placing small amounts of money into the bank account, mimicking a refund. If anything is off, notify the bank or credit monitoring system and they can reverse charges. If you have been compromised, there is assistance. Report fraud immediately. The federal government provides the website Identitytheft.gov to help victims of identity theft.
4. Don’t trust – verify.
- Before you respond to an email, expand the details of your recipient. If the “from” email address does not have the same domain as the organization, it is likely a scam.
- Before entering any personal information onto any website, verify that the website is legitimate. Google search the company name. Illegitimate websites may be flagged by users or even mentioned in articles on internet security.
- Check the website security status to the left of the URL. A secured site has a padlock icon left of the URL, like the one our website.
Identity theft can happen to anyone, online or from your mailbox. It seems counter-intuitive, but properly protected online data is safer than what’s in your mailbox. Awareness and vigilance are the best identity theft protection.