Can You Prevent Identity Theft? Identity theft is among the top three categories of consumer problems reported by the Federal Trade Commission. According to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network, nearly 3 million cases were reported in 2018, with ID theft accounting for 444,602 (15%) of the cases.
Considering that 167,000 of the ID theft cases resulted in the opening of fraudulent credit cards or misuse of existing ones, identity theft can ruin your credit and finances. So, can you prevent identity theft? Yes you can, and here is how:
1.Freeze your Credit
When identity theft is geared towards opening new credit and debit cards or manipulating existing ones, a credit freeze will shield you. This involves authorizing the three national reporting bureaus- TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian- to restrict all access to your accounts.
While the freeze is in effect, no one can use your information to make money through lenders or creditors. You can also lock your credit on the go through apps provided by the bureaus.
2. Always keep your Social Security Number Secure
If scammers get their hands on your social security number, there is no telling how much damage they can do. Your number serves as a gateway to all your personal data. That said, it should be protected at all costs. If anybody asks for it, let them explain how they will protect it and whether they can opt for another form of identity.
3. Protect your Online Accounts
You can now almost access all your financial accounts online. The convenience, however, means that your data is prone to hacking. Most people find it easier to use a single strong password for most of their accounts- a move that makes you even more vulnerable. For added protection;
- Use different strong passwords for different accounts- apply the same due diligence for your mobile devices.
- Do not connect to unsecured or public Wi-Fi and while not in use, keep your Bluetooth turned off.
- Keep your apps at a minimum and protect your smart devices from malware.
4. Monitor your Credit Reports
From your credit reports, you can weed out any suspicious entries that might indicate ID theft. Though the fraud might be already underway, once you know which credit lines are compromised, you can stop a further hemorrhage. Start by taking advantage of the free annual reports available to you from the three nationwide bureaus.
5. Be Cautious When Shopping
When using your credit or debit cards in a store, ensure that your information is protected. For starters, never share your PIN with anybody including bank officials. Also, never let your card leave your presence as all it takes is a few seconds for a store or restaurant worker to clone and start using it.
Protecting your identity has all to do with being vigilant on how and with whom you share personal information. To be safe, keep checking your bank statements, credit reports and changing your passwords. You should also mind sites that you visit via your computer and mobile devices to avoid viruses and phishing programs from mining your details.