27 Jul Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft
Identity theft has been on the rise and continues to be so the more and more we become integrated with the internet. The internet of things is a huge initiative that continues to grow each holiday season with the introduction of new smartphones, smartwatches, smart TV’s, and even smart toys. The more we are connected to our devices with passwords or some form of payment, cyber criminals are out there trying to steal our identities.
Protecting yourself can seem daunting as we hear of more and more cybercrime and identity theft occurring each day. The important thing to keep in mind is that there are ways to keep your information safe on and offline. Being diligent with personal information is key, as it is better to be safe than sorry.
Use the internet wisely:
Install an anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer. Make sure to do your research to find a reputable software. When in doubt, it is always a good idea to ask the experts. When creating any new accounts online, create a unique password each time using special characters in addition to numbers and letters. The more complicated a password is, the harder it will be to crack. Your password should be something that even your closest friends and family wouldn’t be able to guess, because it won’t be a word or phrase unique to you. Make sure to go back and change your passwords frequently and never save your passwords to your computer.
Delete any spam or phishing emails that ask for personal information. Phishing emails are made to look like an email from a company or friend that you would regularly interact with. As a general rule, most companies will not email you asking for personal information. When shopping online, shop on secure sites and use a third-party payment processor, such as PayPal or Apple Pay. If you have a social media account, do not overshare. Giving away information such as your full birthday or your address can give hackers a leg up. If you are using the internet in a public space, such as a hotel or coffee shop, make sure you have a secure Wi-Fi connection before entering in any personal information, or better yet, wait til you get home.
Shred private records:
Any old papers you have floating around can be an easy way for a home invasion to turn into a case of identity theft. Always destroy any papers with personal information and we recommend keeping secure documents, such as your birth certificate, social security card, and passports in a lockbox or safe. Never throw credit card information or bank documents in the trash. When in doubt, shred it. It is a lot harder to piece together a shredded document and most criminals won’t waste their time.
Check your mailbox regularly:
This is especially important if you don’t have a lock on your mailbox. An open mailbox can give anyone access to important documents from your credit cards and bank. When paying bills through the mail, don’t leave them in the box for the mailman to pick up. This can leave your checking account information exposed for hours to potential criminals. Instead, opt to take them directly to the post office and drop them directly into the mail shoot.
Check your credit report regularly:
Keeping an eye on your credit report will alert you to any suspicious activity. The earlier you see something that can have a detrimental effect on your credit, the better. You can request a free copy of your credit report from one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It is best to view your report on all three, as these reports can vary between agencies.