Violations of big data make headlines more often than we would like, making it clear that the companies we trust with our information cannot protect us from an attack. It makes it our responsibility to take actions that help prevent identity theft. Knowing what to look for – and what you can do about it – is the best way to keep your personal data out of hackers.
Identity theft is when someone accesses your personal information and uses it for financial gain. Personal information or financial information entered online can be a smorgasbord for identity thieves on the hunt. The stolen information can be anything from your full name and date of birth to your social security number and bank details. Identity thieves can use this data to tap into your bank account, open new credit accounts in your name or charge your existing credit cards.
The bad news is that identity thieves are sneaky and identity theft can happen without much fanfare. Therefore, it is important to know what to look for so that you can stop identity theft before it takes a huge toll on your finances.
Know your finances
Make it a habit to regularly check your credit report, checking and savings account statements, phone bills, bills, loan account statements, credit card bills, and government benefit statements.
Recognize warning signs
When reviewing your accounts, keep an eye out for new applications made in your name, unauthorized fees or withdrawals, notifications from debt collection agencies, bills for accounts you have not opened, and unusual activity on your social security number.
The good news is that there are things you can do to minimize your risk of identity theft – especially when you are online.
- Create alerts on your accounts to stay up to date on any unusual activity.
- Use an identity theft protection.
- Protect your Wi-Fi home network with strong passwords.
- Use only secure online shopping sites.
- Never transfer sensitive data over a public Wi-Fi network.
- Use complex passwords and 2-step verification on all devices and online accounts, including social media.
- Keep track of passwords with a secure password manager.
- Keep sensitive information such as bank statements and your social security card in a safe place such as a home safe or a safe.