What You Can Do To Prevent Identity Theft
Identity theft is no small thing. You could be dealing with tons of debt and paperwork if someone steals your identity for months afterwards, especially if you need to fix credit report inaccuracies later.
The way you approach data and credit safety can make a huge difference to your chances of becoming an identity theft victim. Here are some essential recommendations to help you secure yourself.
How Identity Theft Happens
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as your name, address, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission. This information can be obtained in a variety of ways, including:
when hackers gain access to a company’s computer system and steal sensitive information, such as credit card numbers or Social Security numbers.
when fraudsters send emails or text messages that look legitimate, but are designed to trick you into providing your personal information.
when thieves use a small device to steal credit card information when you swipe your card at a point-of-sale terminal.
when thieves steal mail from your mailbox to obtain personal information.
What Identity Theft Can Do
Once a thief has your information, they can use it for a variety of fraudulent purposes, such as:
- Opening new credit accounts in your name: using your information to open credit accounts, which they then use to make purchases or obtain cash advances.
- Draining your existing accounts: stealing money from your bank, using your debit or credit card to make purchases, or writing checks in your name.
- Obtaining medical treatment: using your insurance information to obtain medical treatment, leaving you with the bill and a damaged credit rating.
- Committing crimes: using your name and information to commit crimes, leaving you with a criminal record and potentially facing legal consequences.
Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft, including:
- Monitoring your financial accounts: regularly review your bank and credit card statements for any suspicious activity.
- Checking your credit report: obtain a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every year to check for any unauthorized accounts or activity.
- Using strong passwords: use a unique password for each of your online accounts, and consider using a password manager to keep track of them.
- Enabling two-factor authentication: enable two-factor authentication for your online accounts whenever possible to add an extra layer of security.
- Being cautious with personal information: never provide information to anyone unless you are sure of their identity and the legitimacy of their request.
- Shredding sensitive documents: shred any documents that contain information before throwing them away.
- Freezing your credit: consider freezing your credit to prevent anyone from opening new accounts in your name without your permission.
By understanding how identity theft happens and what it can do, you can take steps to protect yourself and your information from being stolen. Stay vigilant and be cautious with your personal information to avoid becoming a victim of this crime.
Protecting Your Personal Information: Best Practices for Keeping Your Data Safe
Your personal information is valuable to cybercriminals and identity thieves. It is essential to take precautions to protect it. Here are some best practices for keeping your data safe:
- Use Strong Passwords: Create strong passwords for all your accounts and change them regularly. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Enable Two-Factor Authentication: Enable two-factor authentication for all your accounts. This adds an extra layer of security to your accounts.
- Beware of Phishing Scams: Be cautious of emails or text messages from unknown sources. Do not click on any links or provide personal information unless you are certain of the sender’s identity.
- Monitor Your Accounts: Regularly monitor your bank accounts and credit reports for any suspicious activity. Set up alerts for any new accounts or changes to your accounts.
- Use a Password Manager: Consider using a password manager to generate and store complex passwords securely.
- Keep Your Devices Updated: Keep your devices and operating systems up to date with the latest security updates.
- Secure Sensitive Documents: Store sensitive documents, such as your social security card or birth certificate, in a safe or locked cabinet.
Monitoring Your Credit: Why It Matters and How to Do It Effectively
To monitor your credit effectively, start by obtaining your free credit report from the three major credit bureaus annually. Review your reports for inaccuracies, such as unauthorized accounts or inquiries. You can also sign up for credit monitoring services, which will alert you of any changes or suspicious activity on your credit reports.
Another way to monitor your credit is to keep an eye on your credit score. Your credit score is a numerical representation of your creditworthiness and is used by lenders to determine your eligibility for loans and credit. You can monitor your credit score through credit monitoring services or by using free credit score websites.
Check Your Credit Reports Yearly
Every credit reporting agency is supposed to give you a free credit report once a year, which is an opportunity you should always use to check for suspicious activity. Space out requests for your free credit report from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax to every four months so you can keep tabs on the items showing up under your name. Make sure you have a lawyer for credit repair to help you pursue any errors that show up, since items that seem like mixed credit reports could actually be identity theft.
Add Fraud Alerts to Your Credit
A fraud alert is a good way to ensure that your credit stays protected. You can contact your CRA of choice to place a fraud alert on your report. This means that someone who may be trying to pass themselves off as you trying to take out a lease or loan in your name won’t be able to, since the lender in question will see the fraud alert and take steps to identify you.
Fraud alerts stay active for a year, but if you’ve filed a report as a victim of identity fraud you can get a fraud alert applied for seven years for a price. The CRA you contacted will also notify the two other agencies, so you don’t have to.
SSN Safety is Key
Your social security number is the key to your identity in records. This number ties together all your information, from health to credit. That’s why identity thieves try their best to obtain someone’s SSN.
Once someone has your SSN, they can use your name to open new accounts, lines of credit, get healthcare, and more. That’s why it’s advised that SSNs stay as private as possible.
Online Banking Tracking
You should also set up online banking with text alerts for each of your accounts and cards. This would allow you to stay on top of all your transactions and balance your bank statement every month. The text alerts will keep you notified in the case of any new payments, withdrawals or transactions, which will make identifying theft much easier.
However, even after all these precautions, you may find yourself dealing with the damage resulting from a vicious instance of identity theft. In the aftermath, I can offer my services as a credit lawyer in St. Louis and Chicago to help you rebuild your credit and remove debt that was added by the thief.
You can also rely on me to address inaccurate background checks, mixed credit reports, bankruptcy credit errors and debt harassment in St. Louis and Chicago. Contact my office at Cook Law, LLC to get started.