New year, same old identity theft. As we spend more and more of our time online, the threat of identity theft hasn’t gone away — it’s become even more prevalent. From credit card info stored in a mobile wallet to account information in Digital Banking, our personal information is digital now more than ever, and it’s crucial to keep it protected.
As common as identity fraud is, the solutions to fight it are as simple as they’ve ever been. There are basic steps you can take to keep your risk of fraud to a minimum around the clock online. Here are some of the essentials.
Sharing Isn’t Always Caring
Oftentimes, the sharing of information like Social Security Numbers, emails, phone numbers, names, and addresses is responsible for identity theft. So when it comes to your personal information, be greedy. Only share it to parties you trust to keep it private and secure.
From contact info as commonplace as your email to documents as important as your SSN, you should provide sensitive information with utmost care and confidence. When a website, email, or phone call requests this info, always think twice before responding. Is it legit? Are there any sketchy links? Is it a timely request or out of the blue? Pause before providing any info.
Shred It Don’t Spread It
More paper, more problems. Even if you handle most things online, sometimes you’ll receive paper documents in the mail that contain sensitive personal information (think credit card statements, insurance documents, or a birthday card from Mom).
Once you’ve reviewed them, don’t just tear up and toss them — completely shred them using a paper shredder. It’s the only way to guarantee that a dumpster-diving thief doesn’t get their hands on your personal information.
Review Your Credit Report
It’s always a good idea to keep track of your credit score — and staying on top of it can help alert you to any unusual behavior. Be sure conduct a routine credit report each year and review it for any suspicious activity like new accounts you never opened or hard inquiries into your history that may signal identity fraud.
Best part is, the check is completely free. Every consumer has a right to an annual credit report from any of these major credit bureaus:
If you notice something off in your report, you can also request a credit freeze from any major bureau that stops new accounts or loans from being opened in your name until the freeze is lifted. You can even sign up for alerts that let you know of recent activity.
Only Browse Securely Online
Finally, let’s talk tech. Doing things digitally may be convenient, but it carries risk. Tons of sensitive information is used online, from phone numbers to passwords — so be sure to browse safely by following these tried-and-true rules:
- Don’t mix private and public — Avoid using public WiFi networks when handling anything private like banking or emailing.
- Only trust secure sites — Before providing sensitive info, make sure the site is safe to use. Check for the padlock symbol next to a URL to ensure the website is secure.
- Create strong passwords — All your passwords should be unique with 12 characters or more and numbers, symbols, as well as lower and uppercase letters.
- Use two-factor authentication — Whenever you can, set up 2FA. You’ll receive a code by either app, SMS message, or email which is used in tandem with your password to login. It’s your first line of defense if a password is stolen.