Identity theft counts for billions of dollars lost each year as vulnerable consumers find themselves hit with fraudulent activity. Criminals wreak financial havoc through stolen identity using the victim’s credentials for bogus loans, credit card purchases, and even raiding bank accounts.
Being a victim of identity theft can be devastating when oftentimes, the crime is being committed without the consumers’ knowledge. But there are ways that consumers can protect themselves and recognize it before it happens.
Here are tips for protecting yourself against identity theft.
Protect Your Passwords
Billions of people today use online banking and many do not protect their passwords. Without proper protection, you’re leaving the door open for criminals to access your accounts and steal information. Change your passwords often or use a password protector.
Having the same password for multiple sites also enables the criminal to easily guess the password and access private information. Make sure your mobile phone is password protected, use multifactor authentication, and choose passwords that aren’t easily guessed or personal.
Avoid Suspicious E-Mails or Calls
Fraudulent e-mails and fake calls from criminals posing as government entities continue to confuse and target consumers who fall prey to their schemes. Avoid e-mails that market products or services that you haven’t requested.
Do not click on any attachments or links in e-mails with invoices showing products that you’ve supposedly been billed for. Always notice the sender’s e-mail address and do not respond. Contact the business or provider if you suspect that you’ve been billed in error.
Identity theft criminals use links in e-mails to install spyware on your computer and steal your information. Avoid phone calls from numbers you do not recognize. Let these calls go to your voicemail. And never give out personal information by phone to anyone you haven’t confirmed as legit.
Guard Your Identity
Consider adding identity theft protection to your monthly budget. For a nominal fee, identity theft protection agencies monitor websites for your personal information and alert you if your information has been compromised. These identity theft resources serve as a watchdog that protects your private information from financial exploitation and ruin.
The services provide you with peace of mind and prevention against criminal activity such as medical ID fraud and bank account breaches. In the event that your identity has been stolen, identity theft agencies can help restore your life and reimburse stolen funds.
Review Your Credit Report
You’ll want to review your credit report often for any discrepancies or suspicious activity. Should you discover something that looks fraudulent, contact the credit reporting agency that listed the item on your report. File a dispute with the appropriate bureau and contact your creditors to let them know that you may have been a victim of identity theft.
You may want to file a fraud alert with the three credit reporting bureaus who can place the alert on your account for extended periods of time. Creditors who access your credit report must first confirm your identity. In more extreme cases, you can place a freeze on your credit report that eliminates anyone from accessing your credit files. However, you will have to lift the freeze in order to apply for credit or loans.
Consider these tips for protecting yourself against identity theft, and relax knowing that you’ve put security measures in place to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.