Protecting yourself from identity theft is important, but do you know how?
Identity theft is a serious crime. Unfortunately, it is also common, affecting 33% of U.S. adults according to a 2018 User Risk Report from Proofpoint. Although the percentage of adults who experienced identity theft dropped in 2019, it still affected 14.4 million consumers, or around 1 in 15 people. The cost of identity theft also increased, with victims on the hook for a higher percentage of fraudulently-purchased goods and services.
Although protecting yourself from identity theft can seem complicated, there are many simple steps you can take to protect yourself or lessen the impact of any instances of identity fraud you experience. Establishing a few good habits can really go a long way toward making your information safer.
Have you already become a victim of identity theft? See our post “How To Recognize And Recover From Identity Theft.”
Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft Means Keeping Track Of Personal Information
One simple way to avoid identity theft is to not leave your personal information out where it’s vulnerable. For example, many people leave receipts at gas pumps or ATMs if they don’t want them. However, some of these receipts contain personal information about your payment method and this can leave your data vulnerable.
Another common vulnerability is mail. Even a single bill can contain surprising amounts of personal information about you, and leaving this information in your mailbox for days at a time makes it easy to steal. Instead, collect mail often. When you finish with your mail, either store it safely or shred it before you dispose of it.
Speaking of bills, pay them carefully. Don’t leave checks with bill stubs in your mailbox where they can be snagged. If you pay bills by mail, drop your payment at the post office or in a federal post box since this is more secure. You can also bypass the mail altogether by receiving and paying your bills online.
And you know those credit card offers you get all the time? Besides being annoying, they offer criminals a great opportunity to steal your identity by opening cards in your name. Instead of tossing them in the garbage, shred them. You can also stop companies from sending you these offers by visiting www.optoutprescreen.com or calling 888-567-8688. Similarly, you can call 1-888-382-1222 to be added to the national Do-Not-Call registry, which will help reduce the number of unsolicited offers you receive.
Monitor Your Accounts Regularly And Act Quickly To Correct Errors Or Irregularities
One of the most common ways people learn they have become victims of identity theft is when they notice unfamiliar charges on bank, credit card, or utilities statements. It’s important to review these statements carefully each month so that if your identity is stolen, you can take action quickly and minimize the impact. In addition to bank statements, review your medical benefits statements closely because medical identity theft is also on the rise.
Remembering to monitor all of your accounts can be tough, especially when life gets busy. But many banks offer free tools that can help you. For instance, many banks allow members to set up automated alerts. These alerts will notify you when a purchase is made from your accounts or when purchases are made for over a certain amount. Another great tool is fraud alerts, which can be set up on credit cards. A fraud alert tells businesses and credit card companies to take extra steps to confirm your identity before approving any applications for new accounts. Setting up a fraud alert is free and the alert will typically last for one year. You can set up a fraud alert here.
Another important step is to review your credit report annually. A credit report is a record of your credit use. It shows each line of credit you have, the percentage of your total credit that you are using, and your payment history on each line of credit. Credit reports can reveal any errors or suspicious activity that might be related to identity theft. Each year, you can request one free copy of your credit report from each credit reporting agency, and doing so is a great way to monitor your accounts for fraud.
Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft…With Technology?
Sometimes we think of technology as the enemy when it comes to identity fraud, but technology can also be an important tool in protecting yourself from identity theft. For instance, a great way to stay safe is to practice good cybersecurity. This includes creating strong passwords, installing and activating a firewall and antivirus software, and turning on multi-factor authentication wherever possible. You can also secure your home wifi network and avoid using public wifi (or at least use a VPN if you do). All of these things will help keep your digital life much more secure.
In addition, securing your phone will help protect your private data. Make sure you update your device often and keep your phone’s built-in security features active. When you’re in public, keep your phone with you. And this is obvious, but lock your phone!
Besides being handy, digital wallets can also help protect your identity. This might seem counterintuitive; anything digital can be hacked, right? But digital wallets, which are apps that contain digital versions of credit or debit cards, are tokenized and encrypted. This means your data is better protected than if it’s stored on a magnetic strip.
The internet can be a minefield when it comes to information privacy, but you can do a lot to protect yourself just by being aware of scams. While there are definitely some tricky cons out there, most fall into pretty routine patterns. Familiarize yourself with techniques like phishing and spoofing and you’ll be able to avoid the majority of cyber crimes.
Worried About Your Company’s Data Security Plan? Don’t Be!
Identity theft can be hard and costly to overcome. As a result, businesses that experience data breaches often struggle to recover their reputation and customers. Stolen records can be costly to companies, too, costing $150 on average per lost record. It’s no wonder that a 2018 study by Ponemon showed that 60% of businesses close within six months of a large data loss event, and 72% of businesses will be closed within 24 months of such an event. Clearly, it’s important to protect your customer data as well as your company data.
If you’re not sure how safe your data is, contact TracSoft for a free security assessment. We’ll consider your company’s unique needs based on your industry, size, and the type of data you store so that you get a custom security plan tailored to you. When you’re ready for a safer tomorrow, contact TracSoft and put your mind at ease.