Identity theft is a serious threat that most people face today. Each year, identity thieves steal billions of dollars from their victims. Much of this theft occurs from stolen information online. However, thieves can also gain access to personal and financial information offline. Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to help protect your digital identity.
Use Common Sense Onnline
The first thing you need to do to protect your digital identity is to use common sense online. Each device you use that connects to the internet must have comprehensive internet security software. This means anti-virus and malware protection, and a firewall. Furthermore, you must keep this software updated and conduct regular computer scans. You need to regularly change your online passwords and don’t use the same password for your accounts. For further security, consider purchasing a VPN, which will encrypt your digital data traveling over the web. Lastly, before you conduct any online transactions, verify that the website is secure (https).
Monitor Your Credit
Another important step in protecting your digital identity is to monitor your credit. You can get a free annual credit report from the three reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Many financial experts recommend that you check all three reports for possible errors. Sometimes the agencies make mistakes on credit reports. You can write to the agencies and ask that any mistakes be corrected. However, you should also review your credit report to look out for potential identity theft. In addition to reviewing your credit report annually, you should also check your credit score on a regular basis. Checking your score doesn’t hurt your credit. You can check it for free on sites like Credit Karma. Also, some credit card companies will give you your score for free.
Proactive Credit Monitoring Services
Monitoring your credit is good, but it’s not enough to keep your digital identity safe. Identity theft protection companies (LifeLock, LegalShield, etc) offer customers proactive credit monitoring services. Those services track all of your financial accounts as well as your personal data. For example, you will be notified if someone tries to open an account in your name. Since no company can offer a complete guarantee, many will reimburse customers for any financial losses, up to a certain amount.
Shred, Shred, Shred
Finally, the way you handle personal information offline can help protect your digital identity. Not all identity theft originates online. Sometimes thieves can gain access to mishandled personal information. If you receive unwanted credit card offers in the mail, don’t just throw them in the trash. You need to take the time to shred any documents with personal or financial information, before throwing them away. This will prevent someone from obtaining your personal information from your trash. Also, if you are not in the market for any new credit cards, you can opt-out of receiving offers for five years. Just visit the Federal Trade Commission website to learn more. Lastly, remember that your Social Security card isn’t a form of identification. If someone asks to see your Social Security card, you can say no. There is no reason to give out your number either.
In short, each year, millions of people fall victim to identity theft. Often, thieves steal personal information from their victims online. This is why you must protect your computing devices from hackers and data thieves. Always verify that a website is secure before conducting any online transactions. Evaluating your credit report annually is important, but you need to proactively check your financial accounts too. You might consider using a credit monitoring company for more protection. Remember, that not all identity theft occurs online. Be careful with how you handle your personal information with others.
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