Identity theft is one of the most nefarious crimes out there. Here are seven ways to help protect yourself:
1. Secure Your Hard Copies
Every sensitive document should be kept in a locked safe. Credit cards and debit cards should be securely placed in your wallet at all times. When you’re out of the house, make sure you know where your wallet is at all times.
Bonus Tip: Shred all aged documents that contain sensitive information, rather than just throwing them away.
2. Examine Your Financial Statements
Review your financial statements monthly and check carefully for fraudulent activity. Report any suspicious charges immediately.
Bonus Tip: Sign up for alerts and limit your credit card activity to a specific geographical area.
3. Choose Strong Passwords
Use different, strong passwords for each of your accounts and devices. Most websites require you to use a password with at least 8 characters, upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
Bonus Tip: Use a secure password manager to create and store unique passwords for you.
4. Protect Your Computer
Invest in a strong anti-spyware program to protect your hardware from hackers. Be sure to scan your computer for malware regularly.
Bonus Tip: Encrypt your hard drive for an extra level of protection.
5. Be Wary of Suspicious Emails and Websites
Don’t open suspicious-looking emails or click on links for unfamiliar sites. Common sense online is often a good replacement for a virus scanner; don’t go to suspicious websites, and you reduce your likelihood of becoming infected.
Bonus Tip: If your inbox is flooded with promotional emails, unsubscribe from some of them. This will help you spot the truly bad apples in all that mail.
6. Use Two-Factor Identification
The extra log-in step will help ward off scammers and add another layer of security to your accounts. Two-factor authentication involves you to log in normally, and then often enter a code that is sent to another device to verify your identity.
Bonus Tip: Never elect to have a device “remember your password” for a site that involves payments of any kind.
7. Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is a great hunting ground for thieves; steer clear if you can. At the very least, avoid all online banking or password logins while using public Wi-Fi.
Bonus Tip: Secure your own home Wi-Fi with a strong password.