Approximately 15 million residents of the United States are victims of identity theft per year. It’s important to protect yourself by taking certain precautions to ensure your data isn’t vulnerable to hackers. These 6 recommendations will ensure you’re protected against your personal information being stolen, and ensure you’re not a victim of identity theft!
1. Secure your Social Security Number
- The reason why this is so valuable for an identity thief is because this alongside your name, address and birthday can open credit cards, loans, tax returns, government benefits and medical care.
- It’s important for you to protect your Social Security Card and to never have the number accessible on your phone or email, those can get hacked. If you don’t think an organization needs it, you don’t have to put it on forms. If someone asks for it, asks how the company will protect your sensitive information.
2. Watch out for Phone Scams
- Be careful when receiving phone calls from people claiming they’re your bank, the IRS or even the receptionist at your doctor’s office, especially if they are requesting personal details or payment.
- Look up the phone number that called if you’re still wondering if it’s legitimate. You can even look up their number online and give them a call back to confirm they were the ones that called you.
3. Be Careful of Phishing Scams
- If you ever receive a suspicious email from someone linking you to another site, or urging you to download the attachment with a sense of urgency, that could be a phishing attempt.
- You should never download a file or click on a link unless you’re positive the source is safe, and that you were expected to receive something. If you’re still not sure, pick up the phone and call the person to confirm they were the ones that sent it to you.
- This could result in contracting malware or could take you to a website that looks legitimate, but is actually meant to trick you into inputting your personal information, be very cautious.
4. Stay Password Protected
- Be sure to create unique passwords for each account you have and to create passwords with a mixture of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
- In order to maximize password security and still be able to remember your passwords, it’s recommended to use a password manager in order to keep track of all your secure passwords.
- For your email and online banking passwords, it’s recommended to change these fairly regularly, and use two-factor authentication whenever possible.
5. Shred Documents before the Trash
- It still happens that people can dig through your trash in order to find mail and letters from credit card companies and financial statements. Ensure that anything that has your Social Security Number, bank, credit card information, insurance and account numbers are shredded before they go out in the trash.
- Also, be sure to put some kind of a lock on your mailbox, because thieves might just take your mail too.
6. Secure your Devices
- Be sure to lock your device’s home screen, whether it’s your phone with a passcode, or your computer with a password.
- It’s also a good idea to use apps that can track your phones location remotely, and erase the data inside it whether it’s lost or stolen. There are applications with these features for iPhones, Androids, and for PC’s it’s a feature in ZoneAlarm Extreme Security called Find my Laptop. Be sure to keep your devices’ operating systems updated and to keep your antivirus software
It’s never too late to follow these 6 tips and to protect yourself from being a victim of identity theft. No one will be able to steal your credentials if you take these precautions and put them into action!