Prevent Identity Theft with these 6 tips

identity theftIt comes as no surprise that Identity Theft is not only on the rise, but is one of the most prevalent forms of theft nowadays.  For the criminal this is a high reward low risk crime that in most instances takes advantage of opportunity without the need for violence.

The thieves for the most part prey upon our lack of knowledge and inconsistencies in maintaining a moderately high level of very simple security measures to protect ourselves from this crime. Put simply, identity theft is a crime of opportunity, deny them the opportunity and they will move on to the next person seeking to exploit their vulnerability.

Here are six simple steps, as reported by Lisa Greene-Lewis from U.S. News & World Report on Yahoo, that you can take to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.

  1. Use strong passwords and update frequently.  While you may think that your birth date, pet’s name, mothers maiden name, school or work is secure, it’s not.  This type of information is often freely available on the net using a simple search for you. This is just too big of an opportunity for thieves for you not to plug up.  Use a strong password containing a mix of letters, numbers and capitalization to make it more difficult. Also be sure to change this password somewhat frequently.
  2. Beware the share. While social networks are a great way to stay in contact with those you care about, they also provide an easy target for opportunity thieves. Do not share or post your very sensitive personal data including addresses, phone numbers, birth date (especially the year) birth place and NEVER share your Social Security Number on a social network.
  3. Secure your sensitive documents. Whether physical or digital storage of your documents is preferred, you need to ensure that you take sufficient steps to protect them. For physical storage, use a safe or safety deposit box. For digital storage you need to use the digital equivalent of a safe, including firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, keep your browser up to date and secure your wireless network.  Also make sure to shred any documents before throwing them out.
  4. Protect your phone.  The smart-phone is becoming increasingly more of a target.  Because of their ease of use and portability we rely on our phones to do just about everything today.  This includes apps that allow us to access our bank accounts and private financial data.  It is becoming increasingly necessary to take similar protections against mobile phone hackers in the same way that you protect your home computer or laptop.  One easy fix is to use a strong password and take advantage of your phones auto-lock feature.
  5. Check your credit report. Don’t let the first time you find out that you have been a victim of identity theft come while you unexpectedly get denied for credit.  You should check your credit on a periodic basis for not just errors, but for indications that someone is using your identity without your knowledge or permission.  Further enrolling in a credit monitoring service will give you almost real time notifications when a change has been made on your report so that you can catch the thieves earlier rather than later.  (Click here for our recommended provider of credit reports and credit monitoring to take advantage of a free trial including all 3 of your credit scores.)
  6. Don’t be a “phish”.  If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.  Let’s be honest, there is not some foreign dignitary in Nigeria who needs your help to get $15 million out of the country and is willing to split it with you.  Please don’t fall for this type of scam.  Additionally, be on the lookout for emails from other trusted sources, like your bank, asking you to click a link and confirm your information.  If you receive one of these types of emails, contact the entity through a phone number that you know is legitimate and discuss the email with them.

By taking these simple precautions you can severely reduce the opportunities that thieves have for stealing your identity.

If you have been a victim of identity theft, you know the havoc it can wreak on your financial life, and how difficult it can be to undo the damage.  If you need assistance in putting your life back together, we may be able to help you fix credit errors as a result of identity theft.

Have you been a victim of identity theft, let us know what happened and what you would do differently in the future to stop these thieves in their tracks by commenting below.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Anthony Candella

Anthony is the founder and Directing Attorney of YourCreditAttorney.com and has been helping consumers just like you understand and improve your credit and financial situation since 2003.