Identity theft has become a significant problem in this county. Due to various data breaches, hacking incidents, and now the threat of constant malware/ransomware, you cannot be too careful.
Cleaning up after identity theft is time-consuming, frustrating, and discouraging. Some damage that is done may never be reparable. Therefore you must know how to secure your identity before it falls into the wrong hands and is used to perpetrate crimes, fraud, or wipe you out finically.
If you need an identity theft safety plan for 2021, read on. Below are some tips you can use to secure your digital footprint better and close any loopholes.
Be sure to order a free copy of all your credit reports each year. You are entitled to a free copy from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. All you have to do is ask. Check each line item carefully, looking for anything suspicious. Better yet, sign up for credit monitoring with a trusted vendor so that your reports are being monitored all the time, and you will be alerted to anything out of line.
All three major credit bureaus offer customers the option of a credit freeze. This means that no one can review your credit report without the file being unfrozen by you. It’s a free service, and you can unfreeze it at any time if you need to get approval for things. However, this will stop anyone who has your identity information from opening new accounts in your name and spending a fortune.
Identity Theft Monitoring
Sign up for identity theft monitoring, which not only monitors your credit 24/7 but also public records should your name come up, or anything nefarious that shows up not the dark web about you such as your name, email, address, username/password combo, or your phone number from a data breach.
Clean Up Social Profiles
Many Americans share too much on social media. Review each of your social media and online profiles (LinkedIn included) and remove any personally identifiable information like your home address, phone number, and email. Any of those could be used to scam you or snare you in a web of fraud.
Leave Your Social Security Card at Home
Your social security number is your national identifier, and it’s an essential part of your identity. Thieves look for this number to open new bank and credit card accounts in your name. Security experts recommend leaving the card at home in a safe place (locked box if possible) with your other sensitive documents like your passport. That way, if your wallet or purse is stolen or lost, thieves will not walk away with your identity also.
One way scammers steal your identity is through the mail. Before throwing away paid bills, bank and credit card statements shred them. Shred other documents that contain any personal or sensitive information on them. You cannot be too careful. Even if you assume you live in a safe area, you really never know anyone fully, and you cannot be sure who may be lurking outside.
Pay Bills Online and Monitor Your Mail
Pay your bills online and sign up for paperless statements. The more you limit your mail, the better off you’ll be. Thieves cannot steal what isn’t there. You can take control by paying your bills through your bank’s website, so you don’t have to provide payment information to dozens of vendors.
Monthly Review of All Your Accounts
Although it may seem too time-consuming, take the extra few minutes to review every transaction on your monthly statements. Some scammers and hackers start small to test the waters, so even one small charge you don’t recognize could be the start of identity theft. Thoroughly review all your bank, credit card, and online shopping transaction history reports each month to ensure that no one has compromised your account or stolen from you.
Keep an Eye on Your Kids Identity Too
Child identity theft is trending among scammers because it’s easy to do. Cybersecurity criminals target identities for children because the subjects aren’t using them, and the parents often don’t notice until the child becomes an adult and applies to college or for a loan and gets denied. Along with your own credit reports, also get copies of your children’s. It’s a great idea to freeze your child’s credit reports until they are ready to use them.
Make 2021 Your Most Secure Year Yet!
Whenever you use digital resources, always ask yourself the question, “how can this information be used against me.” If you are careful about entering only the bare minimum on websites and setting up accounts, you will have the most secure digital year ever in 2021.
Remember, no one can protect you from identity theft except you. Even if you become a victim, with close, constant scrutiny of your personal information, you can rebound quickly and restore your life back to normal without a major impact.