Identity theft is a crisis that can throw your entire life off balance — and it’s no longer okay to fool ourselves into thinking it won’t happen to us, or that it’s just about account protection and not credit protection.
One in every 16 adult Americans suffered some form of identity theft in 2016. A large number of those incidents were due to data breaches by companies, which released the information of over a billion consumers in 2014.
Credit Protection Fights Identity Theft
Worse still is the effect it can have on your credit, not just your bank account.
Identity thieves have gotten very good at opening multiple charge card accounts and not paying them… which leads to a reduction of your credit score that you may not even find out about until it’s too late.
This also applies to medical identity theft, tax fraud and credit fraud such as chargebacks (chargebacks.ie has a good description of this practice).
It’s best to be prepared, and here are five tips to stay that way.
Protect Your Social
Your Social Security Number is the main tool in an identity thief’s arsenal, and it’s imperative that you keep it under wraps.
if anyone asks you for your social security number, don’t be afraid to ask them why they need it. Don’t bring your any ID with your SSN number on it on the road.
Don’t keep your number out where anyone can see it… a full third of identity theft cases have been traced to someone the victim knows.
Don’t enter it online anywhere; you shouldn’t have to. Never give it to someone over the phone when another form of ID will suffice.
It sounds extreme, but mailboxes and trash cans are prime targets for identity thieves.
Get a shredder and destroy old bills and receipts as well as medical info.
Check bills religiously and scrutinize them completely. Make sure there’s not a single purchase, debit, or fee on there that you didn’t authorize.
Secure Your (e)mail(s)
Because your mailbox is a prime target, you should check it every day, especially if you’re still getting paper bills or credit card offers. Don’t mail bills from home.
You may also want to use a secure email server. Don’t respond to anyone you don’t know.
Get a Credit Report
Make sure you don’t get any nasty surprises in your credit score by getting a credit report.
Just go to Annual Credit Report or call them at 1-877-322-8228. You can get one free report a year from all three of the major credit agencies.
Beware of Scams
The big scam threats these days come through unsolicited phone calls and on social media.
You can get a free app that will block out all unwanted cell phone calls, but also be careful never to answer the phone when it’s a number you don’t know.
Beware of social media “charity” scams and also the occasional email that looks like it came from a government agency or a company you do business with.
Credit Protection Begins With Identity Protection
Now that computers are in control of all of our information, we can no longer trust companies or even the government to protect it.
It’s up to you to do the due diligence in making sure that your identity remains yours alone.
Start taking steps to protect it right away… your future credit absolutely depends on it!