Without further ado, here’s our ultimate list of identity theft prevention tips!
Anyone can become an identity theft victim. It takes a lot of work to ensure your identity is as safe as can be. So, let’s look at how to prevent identity theft completely in the easiest ways possible. The following tips will apply to all, regardless of age and profession.
1) Get identity theft protection services
A lot goes into making sure your identity stays safe. The different protective layers necessary are varied and many. Your age, household status, and job can all factor in to what measures you need to take to keep your identity safe. Meanwhile, an identity theft protection service wraps all possible methods of identity protection into one product. This can protect any adult; many of the top service providers even offer child protection plans for your little ones!
We review various identity theft companies at FraudsWatch.com.com, and strongly recommend everyone looks into the services offered by Identity Guard and LifeLock.
2) Get credit monitoring
Identity theft protection services are helpful for the fact that they cover almost every possible entry point an identity thief could use. Yet, they do not cover the all-too-important factor of credit protection. People can steal your identity without leaving a trail; instead, the criminal could manipulate your identity for the purpose of credit fraud. To catch this quickly, you need to invest in credit monitoring services.
Supposing you are interested in identity theft services, most of the big name companies offer bundled plans that include credit monitoring. You can check our reviews on Identity Guard Total Protection and LifeLock Ultimate Plus to get an idea of what these bundled services include.
3) Create a wallet backup
While you cannot literally back-up your wallet, you can still keep a digital or written copy of everything it contains. When doing this, you should write down the card number, type, and any relevant contact numbers for their support lines. This makes it easier to prevent your identity from getting stolen if your wallet or purse gets lost or taken.
Sounds like a hassle? You can always use the LifeLock Wallet app – this app creates a free digital backup of your wallet, with a few extra security perks. You do not have to subscribe to any LifeLock protection plans to be able to use this app!
4) Customize your Google News feed
You never know when the next POS (point-of-sale) data breach will take place. After Target got targeted in one of the nation’s biggest database attacks, many have awoken to the potential risks that these breaches pose. Yet, none of us are capable of keeping up-to-date on the latest breaches and sometimes companies fail to inform us.
Google News becomes a great utility here. You can customize your news feed based on the types of news you would like to read. Aside from general categories, you have the ability to enter keywords like “credit card hack” and Google will show you stories that include them. This is the near-bulletproof way of making sure you know as soon as a breach happens at a store where you previously used your card.
5) Use online payment methods (and wallets)
Paying through PayPal gives you an added level of security, as the recipient does not receive your credit card information. Yet, you can go a step further by using an online wallet like Google Wallet, or even Bitcoin, to keep your payment credentials secure. The alternative payment world is growing and soon there will be no reliance on the old card payment system. This is something you should always keep an eye on, because the flawed state of today’s credit world desperately needs fixed.
6) Avoid making purchases online
Most identity theft cases boil down to either a personal security breach or a credit card related fraud attempt. Given the nature of the Internet, it’s easy for someone’s credentials to get stolen when making online payments. As such, you should avoid buying anything online with your credit card; for ultimate security, as mentioned already, use an online payment processor like PayPal or Google Wallet.
7) Don’t share your personal information online
It sounds like common sense, but more often than not, victims put themselves in that position. In a recent post, we covered how social media helped identity thieves and the exemplified cases would astound you. Some were so unacknowledged that they shared their credit card, social security number, and even bank checks on the Web.
It does not matter if you use Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you should not ever assume that your personal information is private. Even in your private inbox, if a hacker ever breaks in, there could be endless identifying details about yourself that were not deleted. So, don’t just use common sense, go the extra mile and keep your private stuff to yourself!
8) Avoid giving out identifying information in person
In the identity theft world, any details a criminal can use to target you are pieces of personal identifying information. This includes details like your banking information, credit card details, driver’s license and health card numbers, and your social security number. In most cases, the person or website requesting it does not need the information.
You can be your own judge, as it’s often obvious when your information should be given out. If it’s just to hook up a cell phone, your social security number is not necessary. If a credit check is ever required, you should be able to please the other party enough with a valid photo ID and one other credit card. Basically, to prevent identity theft social security number is something you should never give out.
Also, maintain a list (with dates) to keep track of when and to whom you gave any personal identifying information. This makes it a lot easier to find the culprit if you ever do become the victim of identity theft.
9) Download an anti-virus program
There are many free anti-virus programs that work well, whether you run a Chromebook, Mac, or Windows computer. Download one and make sure you keep your computer child-safe if there are children in your home. For example, if all your kids are young, make it so the administrator’s password must be entered to download anything. Further, maintain any personal documents on an administrator account and make sure no one has access to it.
10) Keep your documents off the computer
It’s often necessary to store personal files on the computer, especially when it comes to building spreadsheets for tax purposes. But, most information is never reviewed again and could just be deleted off your computer after it gets used the first time. If you are weary, just get a USB stick to store your personal documents on. You do not want to store personal information over the long term on your main computer, as it essentially becomes a treasure chest for hackers.
11) Shred any documents you don’t need
You should get into the habit of shredding your unneeded paperwork on a regular basis. A paper shredder is not a big investment. Plus, you might even have the option of enjoying the departure of your bills and other nuisances by burning them in a fire pit. Either way, the point is that you do not want your personal identifying information to make it into the trash.
Seriously, shred your paperwork – previous statistics show that as much as 88% of stolen personal identifying information came from criminals rooting through trash.
12) Get bank monitoring
The last important paid service to make sure you have is bank monitoring. This consists of setting up alerts that trigger once your bank accounts are potentially used in a fraudulent way. You cannot find this level of protection in every identity theft + credit monitoring package. In fact, the only quality plan that offers all three (bank, credit, identity) levels of protection is LifeLock Ultimate Plus– for under $30 a month, it’s not a bad deal!
13) Put a credit freeze on your file
Some people just wait until the damage is done to put a credit freeze on their credit file. This is not a mistake you should make; you have the right to request a ‘freeze’ on your file at any time. By doing so, you will make it so that you are required to verify (by phone) whenever you want your credit file to be shared with a specific party. This remains active until it is reversed. You can also set up fraud alerts that run for three months or more, is renewable, and it automatically runs for a seven year term if you become an identity theft victim.
14) Limit public Wi-Fi use
Any public wireless network, such as at a hotel or restaurant, should be used with caution. As open networks are easier to hack into, it’s possible that a criminal could gain access to your computer, smartphone, or tablet. As such, you should not ever use a public network for online banking and payments, or for any other accounts that involve your personal details. Plus, make sure you always delete the browsing history and cookies after using a guest computer or network.
15) Invest in a P.O. box
Investing in a P.O. box at your local post office is a great idea. This way, you do not have to worry about who sees your mail. There are no longer concerns of a neighbor or random person intercepting postage that contains personal identifying information. After all, stealing mail is one of the most common ways thieves get the information they need. It might be a bit of a pain, but considering the sensitive information that comes through the mail, it’s a smart investment.
16) Invest in a safe
It’s a good idea to purchase a safe for your personal items, whether they are documents or fine jewelry. A simple, yet crack-proof and fire-resistant safe is best and they do not run much more than $100 at entry level. You can use this to keep any sensitive items, such as your passport and your social security card. This is especially valuable if you ever have a babysitter or cleaner in your home, or if you just have many people passing through over time.
17) Limit your charitable donations
Never donate a penny by phone. Always make sure to check the charity’s BBB rating and search online for terms like “charity name + forum” and “charity name + scam” to get an idea on the charity’s legitimacy. While many are trustworthy, some are just looking to pocket your cash. In the worst cases, the fraudulent organizations will also take your personal information and credit card details to commit identity fraud.
18) Obtain a copy of your credit report
If you are not pro-active with tracking your credit file, now would be a good time to start. This means more than just getting credit monitoring assistance; take the time to obtain and review your credit report. Look for any discrepancies, stuff that looks inaccurate or fraudulent, and make the error known to the credit report bureaus.
Be careful, as information must also match up between your credit reports from the three main bureaus, which include Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can always milk the Identity Guard free credit report and score trial for this information; if you want to track your credit progress, the monthly premium after the trial is well worth it!
19) Protect your kids
When it comes to identity theft protection, it’s important to secure both you and your children’s identities. After all, the estimate is 10.7% of minors have had their social security number used without their knowledge. This could be done by a relative trying to hook up utilities after getting cut off on their own, or it could be for financial gain. Regardless, an identity theft add-on like LifeLock Junior will keep your kid’s identity safe.