If you are worried about protecting your identity, you are not alone. It is a concern that bothers millions of people. However, most often, identity theft occurs because we fail to safeguard our sensitive information.
Identity Theft is a crime on the rise. The number of reported cases increases every year, as does their severity. As technology increases and we all get digitized, the ability for thieves to gain access to our private information becomes more comfortable.
The U.S. government has done its part by making identity theft a federal crime. Individual companies and financial institutions have done their roles by increasing their security to prevent such crimes. The only thing left is for us, the consumers, to do our parts.
Luckily, safeguarding your sensitivity is not that complex. It only requires a little awareness and some planning ahead. Here are the six steps you should take to prevent identity theft from breaking into your life.
1. Be Aware
The best friend of identity thieves is a lack of caution. People surf the web every day with wild abandon. They click on shady-looking links, do not use proper virus protection, and leave themselves fully exposed to hacking. So the first step to protecting yourself is to realize that you need to protect yourself.
Be aware that there are people out there in the ether watching your online activity. Be aware that there are whole programs developed to pose as legitimate companies to get your personal information. If you are aware, then you will exercise caution and not make simple mistakes hackers count on you to make.
So before anything else, make sure your virus protection is up to date and check to see if your firewall is active. When on the web, take a closer look at links and emails. Allow yourself to be a little suspicious of everything. Last but not least, use common sense.
2. Beef Up Your Passwords
You would never leave your car with the door wide open and the keys in ignition would you? That is placing a neon sign that says, “steal me”, above your auto and inviting trouble. Well, the same goes for not password protecting everything.
If you want to protect your identity, then make sure it is hard to access it. Passwords protect all your smart devices and anything that connects directly to the internet.
Your passwords should also be tough to crack. I know it is annoying when you are building a profile, and the site makes you create one with upper and lower case characters, numbers, and special characters.
But this is important because it makes the password that much harder to crack. So go all in. Also, mix up your passwords. If you use the same password for everything, it can create a domino effect if hacked. So mix it up a little to add extra protection.
3. Limit Your Outgoing Information
A very effective way of reducing the risk of your information being stolen is by refraining from putting it out there, to begin with. There are many ways hackers mine for info, and if you put a hold on your output, that substantially limits what they can see. So be very stingy with your info.
First off, make sure you only give out sensitive information like bank accounts and social security numbers to legitimate companies. Never go further than your name and email address with unchecked sites. Also, be aware of how legitimate companies communicate.
The I.R.S., for instance, does all of its business through the mail. They do not communicate via telephone, so if they call you out of the blue, it is a trap. Some hackers will even try to pose as your financial institution by using very similar websites. So be cautious if the login page of your bank suddenly looks different.
A final step is to be more cautious with links. Often following a link from one page to another can expose your information. To avoid suspicious links and email, but also navigate directly from page to page. Another good step is to refrain from doing any financial transactions with companies that do not have proper licensing or protection. Those credentials are essential to see. You may be protected, but if they are wide open, your info still gets stolen.
4. Protect Your Social Security Number
Your SSN is one of the most vital parts of your identity. So it should garner the most protection. First off, never keep your physical card on you. A social security card is something that belongs in a safe. If you lose it, replace it immediately. Replacement social security cards in Illinois, Kentucky, Arizona, Florida, etc. are easy to come by at Online Application, so do not hesitate. Remember, if you do not have your physical card, it makes you look suspicious.
Be overly cautious about sharing your SSN online. Always make sure it is a legitimate company you are dealing with. If you are unsure of why they ask for your SSN, find out. Also, make sure the site requesting it is adequately protected, so the transfer of that information is not compromised.
5. Have Fun with a Shredder
A pervasive aspect of identity protection that is overlooked is the shredding of documents. You should always shred essential documents. If you think someone will not go through your trash to find that bank receipt thinks again. You never know what an identity thief is capable of, so go the extra mile.
A good example is your SSN. You should shred any document that has your SSN displayed in full or in part. Remember, many sites only ask for the last four digits. So a hacker does not need the whole thing. If you get a replacement social security card in Illinois, for instance, shred the paperwork that comes with it. The only thing you should keep is the card itself.
Anything you receive in paper form that you consider to be sensitive information should find its way through a shredder. This goes double if you work from home. Shred The harder you make it for people to find your private info, the harder it will be for them to walk away with your identity.
6. Watch Your Access
Internet-capable devices are everywhere. Thanks to WiFi and Bluetooth technology, your smart devices can automatically sync to the web anywhere you go. This is very convenient but also very dangerous. Open public WiFi is one of the best places for hackers to operate as security is not as strong.
So be very careful about what you do on public WiFi. Make sure everything is surface. Do not access sensitive information unless you are on your private network server. Remember, what you surf can be fully visible to other people on a public network.
Another way to safeguard your info is by limiting access to your smart devices. Turn off Bluetooth when you are not using it. Bluetooth is like a back door for identity theft. It leaves your phone wide open. So does automatically signing in to WiFi networks.
If you are walking around and your phone has connected, a hacker could access everything, and you would be none the wiser. So Restrict your device’s ability to sync with other networks. Ask public networks you sign into to forget your information so they will not connect automatically later. You can also just turn your phone’s WiFi off as well.