Identity theft affects 14.4 million people each year. There's a new identity theft victim about every two seconds.
Identity theft stems from insecure practices regarding your personal information. Use these tips to prevent identity theft to ensure your personal and financial data are safe.
1. Avoid Using Public WiFi Networks without a VPN
You should avoid using your phone, tablet or computer to check your email or log in to any sensitive accounts when you are on public WiFi. This can be risky because public WiFi may not have adequate security, and hackers could get access to your web history, passwords, location, files, emails, and chats.
You also should not use a public device or computer such as a library computer for your financial accounts and emails.
If you have to use a public WiFi network, you can protect yourself by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). The VPN encrypts your Internet connection which makes it more secure and protects your privacy. Apps like ExpressVPN and Encrypt.me are easy-to-use VPN solutions that will work on all your devices. When you use a VPN, no one can see the information you send over the network, including the Internet service provider.
In addition, you should turn off your sharing settings, so others cannot access your information.
Other things you can do to increase privacy include:
- Always use HTTPS for websites
- Use two-factor authentication when logging into accounts
Make sure you are aware of your surroundings and what information you share when you are in a public place.
2. Use Different Passwords For Every Account You Create
The first thing a hacker will do with a stolen username and password combination is try using it on different accounts to see where else it works. Using a different password for every account you create will prevent a situation where a compromised password on one service unlocks multiple accounts.
Remembering passwords can be difficult, which is why it’s recommended to use a password manager like 1Password, Dashlane or LastPass that will securely store your passwords and automatically fill them for you.
3. Monitor Your Accounts
Keep a close eye on your credit report and report any unusual activity to the credit bureaus immediately, and routinely check all your credit cards for activity you don’t recognize. Remember to check those accounts you don't use often.
If you don’t think you’ll need to have your credit checked in the near future, you should freeze your credit. This stops personal data from going to creditors and lenders. This would also prevent a thief from using your information to open new accounts because the bank could not access your credit. If you do freeze your credit, remember to unfreeze it if you anticipate needing to provide access to it, for example when car shopping or in preparation to buy a new home.
4. Be On The Lookout For Phishing Scams
It may seem ludicrous, but many people willingly hand their information over to criminals who pretend to work for a bank or financial institution. Be suspicious of any emails or messages asking for your password or other personal information. These messages often contain links which appear to be from a bank or financial institution, but may in fact take you to a phishing website that looks like the real website.
You should always go to your bank’s website by typing it into your web browser directly. Never click on the link in the email.
More importantly, never give out any personal information over the phone or email if you did not initiate the communication. If you have doubts, ask to call back and search for the company's site for their listed number and not the number the caller gives you.
Tips to Prevent Identity Theft Final Thoughts
Use these tips to prevent identity theft so you and your family's financial future. Keep an eye on your accounts and be wary of giving out personal information.
If you are looking for more information to help you save, check out other articles on our site like these simple ways to save money.