Identity theft isn’t something that only happens to other people. Javelin Strategy and Research found that more than 12.6 million adults were victims of identity theft in 2012 – one million more than in the year prior – and there are no signs the trend is slowing. As identity theft becomes more prevalent, it’s especially important that you know how to protect yourself. Here are four things you can do to put yourself on the path to a safer identity.
Purge Your Wallet Lost and stolen wallets can provide identity thieves with all the information they need to steal your identity. Go through your wallet and remove everything you don’t need. Leave spare credit cards and your Social Security card at home, and never have pin numbers written down in your wallet. It’s also a good idea to know exactly which cards are in your wallet – and how to contact those lenders – in the off chance that you need to freeze or cancel an account quickly.
Be Smart When it Comes to Your Smartphone It’s likely that your smartphone can provide even more insight into your identity than your wallet does. Make sure your device is password protected; that you log out of all accounts after you access them; and enable your phone with a program that will allow you to wipe it remotely in the event that it’s stolen
Cybershop with Caution Don’t let the convenience of Internet-based shopping cause you to be careless. Limit your online shopping efforts to networks you know are secure – such as your own secured home network. You can also consider shopping online with a temporary credit card. Generally these can be provided by your bank or credit card lender and can help thwart cyber-security threats.
Also, avoid sites that don’t have clear protections in place. An example of a secure site would be one that has a URL that begin with “https” (the “s” indicates “secure”) on any pages where you are required to transmit payment or personal information. And, be a skeptic. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers create “deals” as a way to entice you to provide personal and financial information.
Stay Tuned Into Your Credit Activity Identity theft is almost always revealed through unfamiliar credit accounts or credit card purchases. Make it a habit to review your credit card and banking statements regularly, and to check your credit report regularly. Early detection will enable you to quickly take the steps necessary should you believe you might be the victim of identity theft.
Preventing identity theft begins with a little common sense caution. Minimizing the potential damage caused by identity theft requires keeping informed and alert, and responding quickly to questionable account activity.
This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.
Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. © 2013 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. All rights reserved.