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How To Protect Yourself From Identity Fraud

How To Protect Yourself From Identity Fraud

Identity theft and identity fraud can ruin more than just your day. If you are the victim of identity theft, you could end up in court, with your wages garnished, and with considerate damage to your credit. This can and will prevent you from living your life and from a comfortable and secure financial future.

Did you know that there is one incident of identity fraud every three seconds? With that in mind, do you think that you’re being safe when you shop, do internet searches, and when you dispose of sensitive documents? Here are some easy ways to help lower your risk of having your identity stolen.

#1) Behold the Power of a Strong Password

It may be obnoxious to you but strong and complicated passwords are imperative if you spend a considerable amount of time on the internet. Avoid common passwords like birth date, mother’s maiden name, a school, workplace, or a pet’s name. Make sure to include some capital letters, a couple numbers, and some other non-alphabetical character (or a “special character”). These days you can even incorporate spaces. Try to avoid creating passwords made up of words that are found in a dictionary.

Frequently changing your password is something that everyone has a tendency of overlooking. In addition to that, make sure that you’re using multiple passwords for various accounts.

#2) Avoid Online Banking Over Unsecured Wi-Fi

It may be convenient to do a quick check on your online banking account when you’re at a place that offers free Wi-Fi (like a café or restaurant). Unfortunately, those Wi-Fi connections aren’t secure which makes it easy for criminals to hack into your accounts.

Along those same lines, make sure that you are keeping your mobile devices secure. Make sure that the apps that you download are from reputable sources (especially if you keep sensitive material on your phone or if you check your accounts using your smart phone). Make sure that your phone has a strong password and that you use your phone’s auto-lock feature. Most people keep some very personal things on their smart phones.

#3) Check Your Credit Report Regularly

Everyone is entitled to a free credit report each year. This information is compiled from three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Check it every year to make sure that the information is correct. If you find an error and if it is corroborated with at least one of the three credit bureaus, they will put a security freeze on your information.

In addition to your credit score and report, make sure that you are regularly checking your credit and bank accounts to make sure that there aren’t any strange charges or withdrawals. Criminals are getting smarter and smarter each day. Instead of making big, obvious purchases, they are more likely to make small purchases (under $20) in hopes that those purchases will slip under the radar. They have also been known to establish new accounts in their victim’s name. New account fraud is harder to detect so the average loss if this happens comes out to around $7,500.

#4) Do Not Call Registries

If you take your name off of marketers’ lists, you will be less likely to receive junk mail and credit card solicitations. These types of mail are often just thrown away by the public, which is where criminals get information and accumulate new accounts in your name. Try not to leave a paper trail by shredding these solicitations. Also be sure to shred ATM, credit card, and gas station receipts. Shred any documents that contain private financial information.

#5) Be Aware of What You Post

Social networks aren’t secure. They are easy to hack if a criminal is especially determined. A large amount of websites even use social networks to help authenticate your identity. Because of this, make sure that you aren’t posting your address, social security number, birth date, birth place, or phone number on your social network.

#6) Be Careful for Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are traditionally e-mails which come from a third party which is claiming to be a trustworthy entity (like your credit card, bank, or phone company). In these e-mails, you are asked to click on a link in order to confirm your personal details. Know that trustworthy companies wouldn’t ask you to provide this personal info without first asking you to sign into your account (which is located behind a secure firewall).

These days phishing has expanded to text messages. Beware of getting text messages from your phone company, asking you to confirm your identity for a specific reason. Instead, call your mobile phone company directly to ask about the text message.

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