According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 17.6 million Americans had their identity stolen in 2014 alone. That’s about 7% of the population over the age of sixteen. And since then, the criminals responsible for identity theft, along with the malicious softwares they use, have only become more sophisticated. Luckily, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft.
Handle financial documents securely
Though it seems everything is online these days, it’s important to think about physical documents and statements you may have lying around the house or office. Old school criminals may look in your mailbox or even your trash to find bank statements and other financial documents. The two things you can do to prevent this kind of theft is to reduce the need for physical documents, ie turn to online banking, and to carefully destroy documents you no longer need by investing in a shredder.
Create strong passwords
When it comes to online bank accounts and other accounts with personal information, one of your number one priorities should be creating strong, secure passwords. A strong password has a variety of letters, numbers, and special characters as well as varying capitalization. Make the password something personal to you that isn’t shared on social media pages or in other aspects of your life. Additionally, you should frequently update passwords and never use the same password twice.
Mind what you share
Be careful with the personal information you share on social networking and social media sites. These days, people are putting a lot of personal information online without doing enough to keep it private. Keep your profiles on the highest possible privacy levels, and don’t share information like your exact date of birth or information that could be used to answer security questions on your online accounts.
Protect your mobile device
Online banking isn’t just done on computers. Many people use smartphone apps to manage bank accounts, track spending, and even do taxes, so it’s important to make sure your smartphone is secure. Make sure your phone is password protected, and only download apps from reputable sources.
Be careful in public places
It may be convenient to check your online bank accounts while sipping on coffee at Starbucks, but you should be mindful of your online activity in public places. Public wifi networks are often not secure, leaving you open to threats and hacks that would not affect you on your private, secure network. Not to mention, you don’t know who might be watching and seeing you type in passwords and other sensitive information.
Keep anti-malware programs updated
Cyber criminals often use malicious software programs to infiltrate a computer and gain access to its data, including personal information. Anti-malware programs are designed to prevent these softwares from invading your computer systems. However, it is important to consistently update these programs so that you are protected by the most up-to-date software possible. If you’re a forgetful person, there’s no need to worry- these programs typically offer automatic updates, so you can have up-to-date protection without even thinking about it.
Don’t fall for phishing
The term “phishing” refers to email scams that ask for credit card numbers, personal information, online login information, and other personal details. Malicious sources often pose as reputable sources, such as banks or retailers you have an account with. However, these companies would never ask you to send such sensitive information over email. If it seems fishy, it’s probably phishing.
While there is no sure-fire way to protect your identity from being stolen, taking these steps will greatly decrease your susceptibility to identity theft. If your identity has been stolen, Liberty can help you find the answers you need and get to the bottom of what happened. Learn more about how Liberty can help you.