Identity theft is a very serious crime that can ruin your finances and your credit score. By the time you discover what happened, resolving the damage is costly and time consuming.
How does identity theft occur? This occurs when someone gains unauthorized access to your personal information – your social security number or your bank information and they use this information to commit fraud or other crimes. They range from applying for a credit card under your name, racking up huge charges and poaching your tax refund. In some other cases, those thieves even assume an unsuspecting personâ€™s identity entirely, obtaining information under that name and even committing crimes as the person they have stolen the identity from.
These are terrifying prospects and itâ€™s clear that identity theft can cost you a lot of money but despite this, there are ways you can prevent it. You can take steps to protect yourself and your information. Here are 5 ways you can minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud:
- Shred your documents. Donâ€™t just crumple and throw away paper documents that contain your personal information. Dispose of them using a shredder.
- Be smart about social media and strengthen your passwords. Consider leaving out certain details such as your birthday or address on your profiles. If possible, strengthen your privacy settings and be cautious who you will accept through your connection. Also, protect your social media accounts with a unique and strong password, something that only you will know. Use random letter and number combinations, create different passwords for each account and change them frequently to avoid being hacked.
- Monitor your financial statements and check your credit reports regularly. Report any suspicious activities in your bank and credit card accounts as soon as youâ€™ll notice it. If a charge comes up on your statement that you know you didnâ€™t make, call it in on your financial institution to inquire. Checking your monthly account statements for charges that you did not make or other irregularities brings them to the issuerâ€™s attention is a great way to nip fraud. For your credit report, you are entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the major credit reporting bureaus. You can request one report every four months and review it for suspicious or incorrect information.
- Guard your social security number. Avoid sharing unless itâ€™s absolutely necessary and donâ€™t keep your social security card in your wallet.
- Protect yourself and your identity. There are established procedures for addressing identity theft and a quick online search will unearth a bunch of companies that offer monitoring and protection services, such as sending you fraud alerts by text, phone or email. Just make sure to do some due diligence, read reviews (such as this Lifelock review) and compare companies and services to find one that best matches your needs.
Identity theft and fraud are terrifying to consumers as they can lead to credit score damage and financial loss. By practicing these ways, you can strengthen the security of your personal finances and you will be more secured. Be vigilant when sharing your information and with todayâ€™s technology, there is hope for advancement that identity verification will make it more difficult for criminals in the future.