6 Steps to Lowering your Risk of Identity Theft
We live in an increasingly wired world, and with the vast majority of our sensitive personal information stored on a server somewhere, identity theft insurance is a must. The crime of identity theft is a deeply damaging one that steals from not only your bank account, but your credit score, your peace of mind, and even the security of others. Very little information is needed to steal someone’s identity, and most of the information hackers need is in plain sight. Hackers don’t have to be tech-savvy geniuses to walk away with your bank account information, and sometimes, they don’t even need to use the internet.
With all of that in mind, it’s extremely important to protect yourself against the scores of criminals out there. You may not be individually targeted, but it’s very likely that, one day, your information will be stolen. As with all other crimes, you can lower your odds of becoming a victim, and doing so is as simple as following this comprehensive guide to minimizing your risks.
– Know the Paths Hackers Follow and Block Them Off
The most important pillar of identity theft protection is decreasing the number of entry points hackers and con artists can use to access your data. Every device you have, every website account you have active, and every piece of software you have that stores your data has its own hidden weak points that hackers can use to snag your data. Don’t give out your info unless it’s 100% required and you’re sure it isn’t a mistake, avoid shady websites, and make sure to close your accounts when you’re done using them. It may even be worth it to contact the company in question and request that your information be removed completely from their database.
– Don’t Forget about your Online Presence
If you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you use email, online banking, and social media networks alongside a myriad assortment of other websites that store and use your information. Shopping websites, tax preparation websites, credit score assessment websites, and many others can store your info, and they can also warn you if your data has been compromised. Keep an eye out for unusual errors, changes, and inconsistencies in your accounts and it may just save you.
– Reduce your Reliance on Physical Mail
It’s surprising to hear, but approximately half of all identity theft occurs when someone takes mail from your mail box or receives it by mistake. Try to cut back on how much crucial information is distributed to and from you via snail mail. It may sound counterproductive to go digital considering all of the big information leaks that take over the media, but they actually account for a surprisingly small number of identity theft, and going digital will reduce your risks. Pay your bills online, have your bank account statements emailed to you instead of put to paper, and sign up for electronic notifications and statements through your bank. You’ll save a few trees, your life will become more convenient, and you’ll lower your risk.
– Make your Passwords Unique and Super Complicated
Creating a one-of-a-kind password for every single site you log in to sounds like a chore, but it might be the most effective tool you have against online identity thieves. Simply creating a separate password for every site you visit is a great idea – it means that, instead of a hacker accessing all of your accounts after one successful hack, they’ll need to hack you over and over again to get to the good stuff, and it’s not worth it to many of them – but making more powerful passwords might discourage some hackers altogether. Passwords with a good mix of upper/lower case letters are a good start, and adding a few numbers and random symbols can beef up your security very significantly.
– See if you can Hack Yourself
This one’s pretty simple. Can you, using only information that is displayed on your profiles or known to many of your friends, access one or more of your accounts? If so, it’s time to go back and repeat the first four steps, because if your friends can easily guess the answers to your security questions, your passwords, your PINs, or your usernames, you are at risk. Don’t let a broken friendship ruin your credit!
– Equip your Computer with the Defenses it Needs
Your computer itself, separate of all of your accounts online, holds an unspeakable amount of information about you, so it’s best to build on a solid foundation and make your computer as safe as it can be. Invest in a powerful antivirus that protects against malware. Have a backup hard drive prepared in case your hard drive fails, and don’t keep all of your information in one place.
Follow these steps to slow, deter, or stop identity thieves, and share this with your friends so they can prepare as well! Odds are, you’ll be a victim of identity theft in the next five years, so when it does happen, be prepared!
How do you protect yourself and your family from identity theft? Share your ideas with us in the comments section below!