There isn’t a foolproof solution to avoid identity theft, and monitoring systems only notify you when anything goes wrong. However, there are 11 things you can do to make it far more difficult for identity thieves to steal your identity.
1. Put Your Credit On-Hold.
Freezing your credit with all three main credit agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — prevents new credit files from being opened and restricts access to your information. It’s free to freeze your credit and then unfreeze it when you want to start a new account, and it’s the best way to prevent an identity thief from using your information to open a new account.
2. Keep Your Social Security Number Safe.
The master key to your personal information is your Social Security number. Protect it as much as you can. When you’re requested for your phone number, inquire as to why it’s required and how it will be safeguarded. Don’t bring your credit card with you. Store or discard any papers with your Social Security number in a secure location.
3. Be On The Lookout For Phishing and Spoofing.
Scammers can imitate government or company calls, and emails that appear to be official could be efforts to steal your personal information. Rather than replying to a phone or email, initiate a callback or send a return email from a known entity, such as the official website. Also, attachments should be avoided because many of them contain viruses.
4. Add An Authentication Step and use Secure Passwords.
To generate and maintain complicated, unique passwords for your accounts, use a password manager. Passwords should not be reused. You may lessen your risk by using an authenticator app. Don’t rely on security questions to protect your accounts; your mother’s maiden name and the name of your pet are both easy to locate. Consider what you post on social media to ensure you don’t reveal sensitive information or signals about how you respond to security questions.
5. Make Use of Notifications
When transactions on your accounts are made, many financial institutions will SMS or email you. Sign up to get notifications on when and where your credit cards are used, as well as withdrawals and deposits to bank accounts.
6. Keep an Eye On Your Mail.
One of the quickest ways to a stolen identity is through stolen mail. If you’re going out of town, have your mail held. Consider a lockable mailbox that has been approved by the USPS. You may also sign up for USPS Informed Delivery, which provides you with a preview of your mail so you can see if anything is missing.
7. Shred Your Financial Mail.
Any credit card, bank, or investment statements that may be found in your trash should never have been there in the first place. Shred junk mail as well, especially preapproved credit offers.
8. Use a Digital Wallet to Keep Track of Your Money.
Use a digital wallet, which is an app that contains safe, digital copies of credit and debit cards, to pay online or at a shop. You may use it to purchase online or at a terminal that accepts it. Because transactions are tokenized and encrypted, they are more secure. Contactless transactions also pose fewer health concerns.
9. Keep Your Mobile Devices Safe.
Mobile gadgets can pose a serious threat. According to Javelin’s research, just 48% of us lock our phones on a regular basis. On your technological gadgets, use passwords. Instead of banking on a mobile browser, use a banking app.
10. Check Your Credit Reports On a Frequent Basis.
Consumers may get free credit reports every week from the three major credit reporting bureaus through the end of 2022 by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Check that accounts are being reported correctly, and keep an eye out for symptoms of fraud, such as accounts you don’t recognize. You may also sign up for NerdWallet’s free credit report and score to receive alerts when something changes.
11. Keep an Eye On Your Financial and Medical Records.
Examine the financial statements. Make certain you’re aware of every transaction. Know when bills are due and call to inquire if you have not received one. To avoid health-care fraud, review “explanation of benefits” documents to ensure you understand the services given.