If you’re like most people, identity theft protection may not be at the forefront of your mind. In fact, a simple online search for “how to protect my identity” or “how to protect my Social Security Number” may not turn up the most helpful information, revealing a huge need for more anti-identity theft resources. Millions of Americans become victims of identity theft each year, resulting in billion-dollar losses across the board.
Fortunately, there are easy ways to prevent identity theft that you can employ today to lower your risk of becoming a victim. Many of these tips and tricks require nothing but a bit of your time and effort.
The first tip to prevent identity theft is to actively monitor your credit. You can practice credit monitoring on your own or utilize a third-party company. The idea behind credit monitoring is simple – frequently check your credit history and reports for suspicious activities.
Many financial resources suggest monitoring your credit each month to ensure it aligns with your banking activities. This way, if you see something suspicious or question a charge, you can tend to it more quickly and resolve it before it affects your credit. Federal law allows you to get three free credit reports per year from Experian, Transunion, and Equifax.
Another one of the best ways to prevent identity theft is to install security software on your computer and your smartphone. Hackers frequently try to steal sensitive information from various websites, social media platforms and email accounts. There are hundreds of security software programs available, all of which come with varying price points and services. While you may have to pay, it can be a worthwhile investment if it means protecting you from thieves using your bank account as their own personal ATM.
Searching for “how to protect my identity” usually results in one common theme: using strong passwords for your online accounts. Easy-to-remember passwords are helpful for you but are like bait to hackers. It is always best to use a random combination of letters, numbers and characters to make it more difficult for identity thieves to guess. Also, never share your passwords with anyone you do not trust!
Do you do a lot of online shopping? One of the best identity theft protection tips is to only purchase things from verified websites. If you do not recognize the website or the domain seems fishy, do not enter your card information without doing a bit of research.
It’s also a good idea to arm yourself with the latest knowledge of red flags. The best ways to prevent identity theft include recognizing a potential scam, reporting and avoiding it. Here are common red flags of identity fraud schemes:
- Strange links sent to your email without context
- Emails from unknown senders·
- Bills from unknown accounts
- Bounced checks