It’s very easy in this present day and age to steal someone’s identity, impersonate them, carry out unimaginable acts of illegality, and then let the victim bear the blame while no one suspects you. This is called identity theft. And believe me when I tell you that you do NOT want to fall victim to this.
How can you protect your identity from thieving predators? By using the measures mentioned below. Do not worry: if you’re careful enough, you’ll be safe.
Be Cautious with Your Cards and Numbers
Numbers, like your bank account and social security number, are highly important. Yet they’re highly slippery too; more prone to being misplaced and manipulated. Protecting this information is the most vital thing which you need to do. The following directions will help.
- Secure Your SSN Like Your Soul: Your unique identity in society is determined by the fact that you have a unique social security number. This nine-digit number is issued to you individually, and should be protected at all times. It allows you to open a bank account, buy a house, borrow money from the bank, and much more. If someone else gets a hold of it, then takes unfair advantage by using it against you for illegal activities, there’s no way the dire consequences won’t fall on you. It’s YOUR number, after all. So keep it hidden and keep it safe.
- Disperse Information: Try not to have too many bank accounts if you find it difficult to keep a count of the credit cards you possess. On top of this, avoid carrying all the cards at the same time in your wallet. If it gets stolen or if you misplace it, the loss will be maximized. You’ll end up fumbling around the phone, calling all the banks, trying to freeze every card. The wise measure is to disperse your information. Keep some credit cards on you, others at home. There’s no need to take your passports, your certificates, or your SSN with you everywhere unless absolutely needed. Keep them in a safe, or better yet a safety deposit box.
- Destroy Information: Usually, people take financial receipts for granted. They just throw them away anywhere. What they don’t know is that these receipts can be manipulated by identity hackers. A solid bank statement from the garbage can be used illegally in so many ways. So shred all important documents and formerly useful papers lying around your house, instead of throwing them in the bin. For digital data, format all the data before disposing of old DVDs, broken USBs, or fried hard drives. Don’t take any chances.
- Inspect Transactions Regularly: The thing about financial identity theft is that it operates under the radar; when you find out about it, it’s too late. So check your transactions daily to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary. Make sure you recognize all purchases and credit activity. Be wary always. Subscribe to an SMS alert service if your bank has one. Read your credit report regularly.
- Go into Stealth Mode at ATMs: ATMs are incredibly useful, yet financial identity theft happens around ATMs more than you think. People leave their receipts lying on the ground, or they don’t effectively hide their PIN numbers. Always shield your hand from view when inserting your PIN into the machine. Thieves have means of surveillance you can’t even imagine. Beyond this, wipe away your fingerprints after you’re done. Yes, they can be copied and used. Don’t forget to pick up your receipts and take them with you. You can shred them later.
Be Cautious with Your Mail
Why is this step even important, you ask? It’s because a lot of important stuff, like new credit cards and invoices, is still mailed to you, and a mailbox is at a convenient enough distance from your house to be broken into by a lurking identity thief. As such, do the following to protect your mailbox:
- Ask for your invoices and statements to be sent to you through email. It’s a much better way.
- Request your bank to inform you of the arrival of a credit card, so you can personally go and collect it yourself.
- Keep your mailbox locked with advanced technology, and keep an eye on it using something like the Vivint doorbell camera.
- Take your mail out regularly. Don’t be lax in this regard.
Be Cautious When Online
This is the 21st century – most spheres of human life have been shifted online. Information has become a power, and this power in the wrong hands can lead to so much misfortune. This is what you can do to protect your private information online from being accessed illegally:
- Go for One-of-a-Kind Passwords: Passwords are like keys to the doors of your online personal information. Cybercriminals look out for them, and if they find them, they can impersonate you and wreak so much havoc. So beware of using the same key for every lock. Make use of unique and strong passwords for different sites. Don’t write them down on paper: keep them in mind, or store them on a secure password-managing app.
- Double Up the Authentication Factor: If someone does get a hold of your passwords and attempts to manipulate your online accounts under your name, a two-way authentication factor will stand in their way of stealing your identity.
- Secure Your Online Shopping: Everyone buys stuff online, but what they don’t know is that the private information they use on various commercial websites has a chance of being manipulated by cybercriminals. So use only one credit card for online shopping, and add the required amount to it only before payment. Buy stuff over reputable websites with an SSL encryption certificate. A two-factor authentication before payment works best here, as well.
- Don’t Get Phished: This is the most common means of online identity theft. You give out your email address nearly everywhere on the internet, like when you want to subscribe to newsletters or download a document. If that email address gets in the hands of a phisher, then you will get a message to your inbox about a spam campaign with an added attachment. Don’t ever click on that attachment, as it enables the phisher to spy on you and get a hold of your private information.
- Browse Safely: When you use internet over a public network, like in a café or airport, it is absolutely crucial that you browse over a secure virtual private network (VPN). A VPN shields and encrypts your data from the eyes of the cybercriminals. It is a safety tunnel which hides your online financial transactions from interested onlookers. Beyond this, it is recommended to regularly scan your device for potential malware and spyware.
Don’t let anyone steal your online identity and make transactions in your name. Be tactful, and shield your accounts with advanced armor. Be careful of what you post online, and who you’re giving your information to. Keep an eye out for unnatural activity.
Be Cautious on a Call
A phone call from a stranger can lead to potential identity theft if you’re not cautious. Anyone can call you if you’ve got your number listed. What should you say over the phone if someone calls you claiming that they’re from your insurance agency?
- Do not be fooled by the tone.
- Ask in detail about the organization they’re representing, and then double check that.
- Inquire about their exact privacy policies, and how they will protect your personal information.
- Don’t take it easy or for granted. Question, question, and question some more.
With the aforementioned tips, you can radically minimize the chances of identity theft happening once and for all. Stay safe!