If you’re reading this, you probably already know that identity theft is a real problem. It’s estimated that over 10 million people have their identities stolen each year. The average cost of repairing the damage to credit and emotional well-being after ID theft is around $650 for every incident. Identity thieves can be anyone from sweet old ladies who are trying to buy groceries for their grandchildren to sophisticated criminals with access to all kinds of technology. There are many ways it can happen, and no one can completely protect themselves 100% of the time.
But there are some things you can do to make yourself less vulnerable than others in certain situations where your information could be compromised or stolen by an online hacker or someone physically stealing your wallet out of your purse or pocket. Following these simple rules could save you a lot of trouble and expense in the event that your identity is ever stolen:
Do not carry your social security card in your wallet. Don’t give it out over the phone unless you initiated the call, and never to an automated system unless absolutely necessary. Make sure all requests for your SSN have a legitimate reason behind them, especially if they come from a government agency or financial institution. Any unusual activity should be reported to the appropriate authorities immediately
Review all credit card bills carefully each month and report any suspicious activity immediately
Identity thieves often use credit cards to purchase goods and services when they’ve stolen your personal information; make sure you review these purchases carefully if anyone else has access to your card. Report any charges you don’t recognize immediately. Don’t give out your credit card number over the phone unless you initiated the call, and never to an automated system unless absolutely necessary.
Monitor all bank account statements as well as credit card statements carefully every month
Check the names of those who have access to your bank accounts periodically. Identity thieves can gain access to your checking and savings accounts by using a lost or stolen ATM card.
Don’t give out other important information unless it’s really necessary.
A lot of people are careless with this sort of thing, particularly when they’re filling out forms online or submitting credit card transactions to online merchants. You’ve got to be really careful with this sort of thing because you never know who the person on the other end is; they could be a criminal hacker waiting for you to make a mistake! Any other information like your mother’s maiden name, address, telephone number, etc., should not be given out unless it’s necessary. And even then, you have to know who it is that you’re dealing with. You might even want to consider using a bogus name when filling out forms online, not using your real information, but one that’s easily traceable back to you.
Only use a secure site when entering important transactions or submitting personal data. A secure site is a website that has a URL that starts with “https://” instead of the usual “http://.” If you’re worried that someone is already selling your personal information, do a dark web scan to double-check.
The best way to protect yourself from identity theft is simply to keep your social security number and other personal information private; you should act like someone could be watching what you type over the Internet because they probably are! Don’t give out your SSN or any sensitive information unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Keep all of your important documents in a safe place at home where no one else (besides you) can get their hands on them. And, finally, keep an eye out for phishing scams; they might not be obvious like common spam emails that try to sell you Viagara or airline tickets, but it’s something that could end up costing you dearly no matter how careful you are.