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Identity Theft Safety Plan, Protection Tips & Checklist

Posted on by Dawna M. Roberts in SecurityDecember 14, 2020

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.

how to protect yourself from identity theft

Identity Theft Prevention Tips

Now you know what to protect the most. The tips for doing this are:

  • Always be on the lookout for email phishing scams. A phishing scam is an email or text you receive that appears to be coming from a company you do business with or a legitimate government agency. It may urge you to fix some security flaw or verify your credentials. These are scams to watch out for and stay away from at all costs.
  • Never use public Wi-Fi to do banking or log onto any financial accounts. Hackers and thieves hang out in public Wi-Fi locations with sniffers waiting to intercept random online traffic to grab your username, passwords, PINs, and bank details. 
  • Invest in a VPN. A personal VPN masks your online activity and hides your IP address so that marketers and hackers cannot track your whereabouts or see what you are doing. A VPN also encrypts your connection to any website, storefront, or online account that you access online. 
  • Order free copies of your credit reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, once a year and go over them carefully looking for signs of fraud (new accounts in your name that you did not authorize). Report any abuse immediately to authorities and the FTC. 
  • Install good security software that monitors your online traffic and alerts you to any intrusions, malware, viruses, Trojans, and ransomware attacks. Use network-monitoring software to control devices connected to your Wi-Fi and alert you of anything suspicious. 
  • Change all your passwords to start off the year fresh. Use long, strong passwords with a combination of letters (uppercase and lowercase), numbers, and symbols; long passphrases are the best. 
  • Turn on multi-factor authentication on every device and on all accounts that you can. Whenever offered, take advantage of this additional layer of security. Turn on FaceID or Fingerprint scanning on all your mobile devices so that anyone trying to use them can’t, without your biometrics. If you use an iPhone, turn on data encryption by setting a phone passcode. Now everything on the device will be encrypted. 
  • Review all your social media accounts and tighten up the privacy and security settings to control who sees what and how much information is shared. There are even ads settings where you can limit how much of your data is tracked for marketing purposes. Those lists of information are often sold on the dark web. You don’t need additional information about you floating around out there. You may also want to go back and remove images or content that exposes personal information about you. 
  • Watch out for social engineering tactics. You might see an ad on social media for something you have been interested in buying. The price might seem amazing. Do not click on it unless you are sure it is from the vendor. Keep a close eye on URLs before buying anything. Some of these social engineering ads are meant to take you to a malicious website where your device is infected, or you are asked for personal information. Either way, it’s going to be trouble.
  • File your taxes early to avoid someone filing a fraudulent return in your name. Even better, sign up for the IRS’s ID Protection PIN program so that you receive a special code and no one can file a return in your name without it.

Identity Theft Safety Plan

Credit Monitoring & Freeze

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.

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.

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. 

Identity Theft Checklist

Let’s be honest; it’s just easier to do things online. You’re at the supermarket, and you forgot to transfer your paycheck into your primary checking account. You whip out your smartphone, log into your bank app, and transfer the funds. Boom! All done nice and easy. The problem is, did you connect to the supermarket’s Wi-Fi before doing so? If so, you could have been the victim of a man-in-the-middle attack and left yourself and your connection to your bank wide open for hackers.

To protect yourself as you navigate daily life and use these super convenient tools to make purchases online, perform banking functions, and update your schedule or profiles on social media, follow these tips below to secure all your devices.

First, let’s talk about the things that are most valuable to a scammer so you can protect those items. For identity theft, the most essential things would be:

  • Your social security number.
  • Your birthdate.
  • Your mother’s maiden name.
  • Your full name and address

For fraud and theft, the most important things would be:

  • Usernames/passwords for accounts.
  • Bank details.
  • Credit card numbers.
  • PINs.

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. 

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