No matter how careful you are, there are always ways thieves are making identity theft a real threat. With the advance of technology comes more and more ways for the criminals to get a hold of your information. Criminals can make money by selling the most obscure information on the dark web. Don’t think it’s just your social security number or birthdate they are after. They will steal any information including your medical information to make money off it.
Before you know it, your identity is stolen, your medical records compromised, and your life is one big headache as you figure out which way to turn. Below we provide the top ways to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft.
Physical Ways to Prevent Identity Theft
Putting technology aside, there are some ways you still need to protect yourself in the physical world. Taking these steps in addition to the steps we outline below regarding technology can help you stay safe in today’s breach happy world.
- Shred all documents with personal information – Think of all of the documents that come in your name and have some type of other personal information. Thieves don’t just look for the full gamut of information in one place. They are experts at piecing information together. Just your name and birthdate on one document can get them started. Other identifying information includes things like your address, previous address, driver’s license number, and social security number. If you are in doubt – shred it.
- Watch your mail – Thieves aren’t afraid to swipe your mail, especially if they know you are not around. If you go out of town, make sure to put a stop on your mail. If you are worried about a series of break-ins in your area, have your mail held at the post office or open a P.O. Box. Just one or two pieces of mail can give thieves what they need to steal your identity.
- Check your financial statements – Your financial statements can be your first sign of something fishy going on. Regularly checking your bank statements and credit card statements for suspicious activity can stop a thief in their tracks. Alerting the credit card company or bank of the activity can put a freeze on your accounts. This also allows you to take inventory of all other aspects of your financial life to see if you’ve been hacked anywhere else.
Way to Protect Yourself Via Technology
It’s no secret that today’s technology puts you at even higher risk for identity theft. Criminals don’t even have to leave the comfort of their own home to get a hold of your information. This is why you must take the following steps to make it harder for them to get to your information.
- Come up with strong passwords – Don’t use obvious words or worse yet, the common passwords like 1234. Come up with obscure passwords that would be hard for even someone that knows you well to guess. Try to use a mix of letters, numbers, and special symbols when allowed.
- Change your passwords often – Even if you have a strong password, if you don’t change it, the chances of someone hacking it are higher. Make it a habit to change your passwords at regular intervals, whether it’s once a month or once every three months. Just be consistent about it to keep thieves guessing.
- Use security software – If you store sensitive information on your computer, make sure you have security software that includes a firewall and anti-viral protection. You should also make sure your router is secured and your computer continually updated, including your browser. There are always new security patches that software companies release. Staying on top of these updates can help minimize your risk of a security breach.
- Don’t click on suspicious links – Make it a habit to not click on any links unless you are 100% sure of the person sending it. Even then, you might want to enter the address yourself. You never know when a link is a phishing link. Criminals have been known to make the email look like it comes from someone you trust. Bottom line, never trust anyone online.
It’s not possible to protect yourself 100%, no matter how hard you try. But, if you keep the criminals guessing, you make it harder for them to steal your identity. Unfortunately, identity theft is very common today, which means we have to stay on top of everything in our lives to make sure our personal information stays personal and not shared with the world.