When someone loses their personal data, such as a Social Security number, credit card number, username, password, health ID, or financial data due to a crime, scam, or another kind of deception, that means they have become a victim of identity theft. This article gives useful tips and advice on staying protected.
Avoid Sharing Your Social Security Number
Don’t list your Social Security number on your resume when applying for a job. Employers don’t usually need it. If you’ve been approved, you might need to give it to your employer for them to do a background check on a site like https://checkpeople.com. In this situation, make sure you’re dealing with an actual employee of the company that wants to hire you and that this company is legitimate. Don’t rush to provide your passport or driver’s license number if asked – this raises a red flag.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are up to 9 million victims of identity theft in the US each year. Since 2005, there have been breaches of more than 534 million personal records due to attacks on organization, institution, and business databases.
Identity Theft: Red Flags
Be vigilant and watch for common signs of this crime, such as missing bills, false information on your credit reports, or being denied credit for no good reason. Your name, address, Social Security number, or employer’s name on your credit report shouldn’t be wrong.
Avoid Using Unsecured Networks
Don’t be quick to use public wi-fi, especially if you need to transmit sensitive information. A virtual private network can protect you on a public and/or unsecured network.
Use Strong Security Software
Always use updated, strong software to protect your smartphone or computer. If a device has become infected with a virus or malware, other safeguards are usually useless because the hacker has the key to everything you do online. Be sure to install operating system updates. By sending a malicious file to your computer, scammers track your keystrokes and internet use, uncovering your passwords as they go along. Never download suspicious files. Make sure to have anti-malware and anti-virus programs installed.
Learn to Identify Phishing Scams
Some scams and spam are easy to identify, but others look quite legit. It is precisely these that claim the most victims. Be wary of phishing attempts on social networks, email, or IM. Not clicking on links you don’t trust is the only sure way to escape a phishing scam. Not all emails with a familiar logo that contains your name are legitimate! Google the website instead of clicking on the link that’s been sent to you.
Monitor your Credit Scores
Americans have the right to free credit reports from Equifax, Transunion, and Experian each year by law. Take advantage of this right if you suspect you’ve become the victim of identity theft online. The site AnnualCreditReport.com integrates these three bureaus. You can get your credit reports from the web site, which is 100% safe. Alternatively, there’s a toll-free number to call. You can also request them by mail. While you can always pay for a copy of your report, you’ll need to wait a year to get it from the same credit bureau again, free of charge.
It’s also a good idea to freeze your credit files (for free) with these bureaus as well as Innovis and the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange. By doing this, you’re keeping people from using your identity to apply and get approved for utility services or a credit account.
Use Strong Passwords
Using the same weak password everywhere is every online scammer’s dream. An identity thief can log into your accounts, get your financial data, and wreak havoc once they know what your password is. Strong passwords use symbols, numbers, and upper and lower-case letters. They also need to be more than 12 characters long. They shouldn’t include information related to your date of birth, age, name, or other personal details. Among the best password management practices are two-factor authentication (2FA) and password managers.
Review Your Credit Score
Review your credit score to check for any new loans or credit cards on your account that you never knew about. Take urgent measures to have these blocked and investigated. You can report identity theft at IdentityTheft.gov (FTC) or by phone at 1-877-438-4338.