by Mike Murphy
Identity thieves can make your life miserable.
When a thief gets hold of your personal information, they can spend your money, run up debts in your name, and exert control over your life.
Thankfully, there are ways to help prevent identity theft and avoid the consequences of having your personal data stolen.
The different ways of minimizing the risk of theft are explained in this guide. Simply apply each step one-by-one.
Much of the advice on the internet relating to ID theft talks about what to do after your identity has been stolen.
This guide shows you what to do before the theft happens. You’ll learn 11 ways to help avoid identity theft and avoid becoming a victim.
These are the same strategies used and recommended by security experts.
But here’s an important fact to consider:
Although there are ways to help in preventing identity theft, there’s no way to completely eliminate the risk.
No method or strategy is 100% fool-proof.
It’s a reality we must all deal with.
With that being said, if you employ the strategies listed here, you can build your own little fortress around your personal information.
The more traditional ways to avoid identity theft may be looked at as old-fashioned, but they are still vital to protecting yourself.
So let’s start with the more traditional ways first, then we’ll show you the newer ways to prevent theft…
Naturally, this is one of the best things you can do to protect against identity theft. The first sign that your identity has been stolen could be a refusal of credit.
If you apply for a loan or credit card, and you get unexpectedly turned down, it could be because someone else has run up debt in your name.
You are entitled to a free credit report from the three main credit bureaus.
If you get a credit report from each of the bureaus, you will be able to check your credit status every four months.
The three national credit bureaus are TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Keeping an eye on your credit reports will help you spot fraud and help protect yourself against identity theft.
Checking your credit reports is what you should do if you suspect identity theft has already happened to you.
Not only is it a great way of finding out if you’ve already been victimized, it’s a great way of knowing how much damage was done.
Another credit related strategy you can use…
This is one of the best steps you can take if you’re already a victim of ID theft.
But you can also use this option if you do not plan to apply for a new credit card or make any large-scale purchases in the foreseeable future.
This solution ensures that no one can apply for credit in your name.
Putting a freeze on your credit is easy to do with the three major credit bureaus and
Visit Transunion, Equifax, and Experian and follow the steps to apply a credit freeze to your accounts.
In the event you need to apply for credit in the future, you will need to go back to each of the three credit reporting agencies to remove the freeze.
It can take up to a couple of days for the credit freeze to be removed, so be sure to plan ahead.
A freeze can be removed temporarily or indefinitely.
Using this option is truly one of the better ways of preventing identity theft as well as other financial crimes perpetrated against you.
As an additional layer of protection, you can opt for ID theft insurance.
If your bank or credit card statements don’t turn up in the mail, it could be a sign that your identity has been stolen.
Once identity thieves have gained access to your personal information, they may change the correspondence addresses on your accounts.
Identity fraudsters will change the mailing address on your bank and credit card statements so that you cannot see the unauthorized transactions.
So if any of your regular mail stops arriving, contact the sender immediately to find out what has happened.
Theft is not always high tech. Sometimes, thieves will go through your trash looking for any information that could be useful to them.
Be sure to shred all your bank statements and other confidential documents before you discard them.
It’s an old-school way to prevent identity theft and it still works today.
Also, it is best to opt for electronic financial reports whenever you can.
Just make sure you have good anti-virus and anti-malware software running on your computer to protect against computer hacks.
Open all your bank and credit statements as soon as you receive them and check them for any transactions that you do not recognize.
If you see anything that looks suspicious, report it immediately.
The sooner you spot that you have become a victim of identity theft, the easier it will be to stop the fraud and clear up the aftermath.
Simply being mindful of your surroundings is a good way to prevent identity theft and financial fraud.
When you are out, be alert to who might be looking over your shoulder.
Guard your personal identification number (PIN) when you use automatic teller machines (ATMs), for example.
If you use your computer in a public space, be aware of the people who may be able to see what you are typing.
And avoid accessing personal websites, such as online banking, when you are using a public Wi-Fi network.
All the methods listed above are some of the more conventional ways to protect against ID theft.
The tips below are some of the more modern ways to do it.
Be on the alert for phishing scams, which are attempts by criminals to get you to divulge your personal information.
Phishing scams come in many guises. Sometimes, you might receive an email asking you to confirm your bank details.
Or you might receive a text requesting information such as your social security number or health insurance details.
Phishing scams are also sometimes perpetrated on the phone.
Some phishing emails are obvious scams, like the Emails from a “Nigerian prince” who wants to send you millions of dollars.
Other scams are more subtle, though, like an email that appears to have been sent by your bank. Don’t be fooled.
Legitimate organizations will rarely ask for personal information via text, emails, or on the phone.
Another great way to help prevent identity theft is by using two-factor authentication whenever possible.
This adds a further layer of security when you are logging on to a website.
In addition to your password, you will also be sent a confirmation code by text or by email. If any website offers two-factor authentication, it would be advisable to take the option.
It is one more step that you will need to take every time you log into the site, but that extra effort could be sufficient to protect your confidential data.
Look for the “https” and the padlock in the address bar of any website you use.
If you see “https” in the website’s address, then that means that data you enter on the site is encrypted, which protects that data against hackers.
However, contrary to popular belief, “https” does not guarantee that the site is legitimate, so it is advisable only to buy items from well-known, trusted websites.
Things like children’s names and dates of birth are often used as security questions on financial websites.
So be mindful of what you share on social media. It would also be best not to share any details like your home address and email address on social networks.
Be careful with the photos that you share online as well.
A picture of you at a restaurant with your credit card on the table, for example, could be all it takes for a thief to begin stealing your money.
Many times, avoiding identity theft comes down to common sense.
Using obvious passwords like your pet’s or children’s names is not a common sense approach to protecting your info.
Instead, create complex passwords that contain random letters, numbers, and special characters. It is also not advisable to use the same password for multiple websites.
If you use lots of websites, then you might find a password management tool, such as Dashlane or RoboForm, useful.
Remember to change your passwords every month or so, too.
If you do become a victim of identity theft, it can take a great deal of time and effort to sort out the mess. And it can be a drain on you mentally, which can affect every part of your life.
The above tips, though, will help prevent identity theft from so many different methods used by crooks. So put these strategies to good use.
The crucial thing to remember is that anyone can become a victim of this type of crime, that’s why it’s important to be vigilant and cautious about divulging confidential information to anyone.
Remember to check in with the three major credit bureaus and the federal government websites to get additional resources and learn about new ways to protect against identity theft schemes that may be out there.
Be super-cautious when you go online and on social media sites.