Protect Yourself from Identity Theft in 8 Easy Steps
Identity theft? I’m not talking about the movie. It’s possible for someone to steal and damage your financial reputation. We will talk about ways to protect yourself against identity theft
What is Identity Theft, How to Protect Your Financial Assets, and How to Recognize the Signs That Your Identity Has Been Stolen
You find yourself enjoying a Saturday afternoon while suddenly your bank calls- if you are lucky. They want to verify a few purchases. Did you just buy a TV in Arizona, and you live in New York? Did you attempt to get gas in Ohio, and you live in Texas?
If you are lucky, your bank catches bits and pieces of charges that raise flags. However, if you have been targeted by expert identity thieves, you may not find out until you either get a credit card statement with purchases you never made, or when you get denied for a line of credit, due to unpaid balances of cards you never opened.
If any of this has happened to you, you want to make sure it never happens again. And if it hasn’t, read on, so that you do everything you can, to prevent it from happening.
What Is Identity Theft
Identity theft is the fraudulent acquisition and use of a person’s private information, usually for financial gain. If you have ever been impacted by identity theft, then you know how detrimental it can be to your financial future. Identity theft has affected more than 60 million Americans. It has become more common for people to hack or create data breaches to gain access to someone’s accounts, which allows them to make purchases in your name and access important information like your social security number, driver’s license, where you work, and where you live.
Nine of the most common types of Identity Theft
- Employment or Tax Fraud
The use your social security number to gain employment or file tax- related reports to receive your refund.
- Credit Card Fraud
The use of your credit card to make unauthorized purchases
- Bank Fraud
Uses your personal information to create new accounts or have access to your existing financial accounts.
- Government Documents or Benefits Fraud
The Use of your personal information to receive government benefits
- Insurance Fraud
The Use of your personal information to obtain insurance to receive medical benefits
- Child Identity Theft
The use of children’s personal information to open new accounts, apply for government benefits, take out loans, and more.
- Estate Identity Theft
The use of a deceased person’s personal information to drain their accounts, set up new loans, steal government benefits, and more.
- Synthetic Identity
The use of fabricated information with real information to take out loans or sign up for credit cards
- Criminal Identity
The use of personal information of another person given to a police officer offer by a criminal.
It’s very important to keep track of your personal assets and regularly checking your financial accounts to detect any errors or wrongdoings to be able to recognize signs that your identity has either been stolen or tampered with.
How to Recognize Signs That Your Identity Has Been Stolen
If you aren’t keeping track of your financial assets or making sure you're providing the right companies access to your personal information. You are going to put yourself in real trouble because you might miss out on signs that your identity has been stolen.
Here are signs you should look for
- Unexplained withdrawals from your bank account
- You are no longer receiving your bills or other mail
- Debt collectors are calling you about debt that you don’t owe
- You find unfamiliar charges or fees on your credit report
- Merchants refuse your checks
- Medical providers charge you for services you didn’t receive
- IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, and that you have income from an employer you don’t work for
- A Health plan won’t cover you because your medical records indicate that you have a condition that you don’t have
- Your health plan rejects your illegitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefit limit
- You get a notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account
If you are not looking for these signs actively, you might be missing out on major signs that your identity has been stolen. If you have experience any of these, you definitely need to get in contact with your bank and discuss ways to protect yourself from further damage.
How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
Identity theft is a scary thing to think about and burdensome to know that your financial assets can be accessed with anyone with a computer and good hacking skills but if you can find ways to protect yourself from it. It can help you to feel more secure and safe about where your finances are and who has access to them
Here are 6 ways to protect yourself from identity theft
- Review your Credit Card Statements & Monitor your Credit report
By doing this you will be able to spot any errors and figure out where they are coming from. If you catch it early, you will suffer less damage than if you don’t regularly check your credit statements/reports.
- Destroy private records and statements
The shredder will become your best friend. If you have anything that has your personal financial information such as credit statements. You definitely want to shred it before it gets into the wrong hands
- Safeguard your Social Security Number
Don’t give anyone your social security number, unless it’s for a certified employer. Never carry your card with you or any card that has specific information about you or your finances. You don’t want that to get into the wrong hands
- Keep hold of your credit card
If you ever lose your credit card, cancel it right then and there. You don’t want to pay for things that you never purchased or damage your credit.
- Be smart about who you decide to deal with
Don’t spend money or personal information to people you don’t know. If you receive a call from a debt collector on regards on debt that you don’t owe, or a call from a company that requests that you hand over your personal information. Please verify before making any transactions or giving away your information. It’s better to call and do your research before making the next move.
- Don’t leave a paper trail
Never leave an ATM, credit card or gas station receipt behind. You don’t want that to get into the wrong hands. Opt for emails or paperless receipts for Gas.
- Use strong passwords
Make sure you take out the time to invent hard to guess passcodes that will be difficult for the hackers to figure out. Don’t put family names, your name, or any personal characteristic about yourself as your password. Those are always easy to guess.
- Limit what you share online
Don’t share personal information about yourself on social media sites such as birthdays, address, phone numbers, or any other personally identifiable information. This will make sure that hackers have a hard time figuring out the answers to your security questions or guessing your password
To protect your identity theft, you have to be defensive over your personal information and not give people an opportunity to steal your identity. It’s better for you to keep your private information private and to be aware of who you are giving the permission to access your personal information.
Identity theft impacts close to 15 million Americans a year and up to 16.8 billions of dollars have been lost to data breaches and hacking. Identity theft is one of the main things you should be looking out for. It can take years for people who have had their identity stolen to ever get their financial assets back in order. If you can plan for the unexpected by keeping an eye on your financial accounts, recognizing signs of misuse, and being able to set a course of action to keep your assets protected. Your future financial self will thank you for being overprotective and conscious of your financial position.