In the United States alone, around 15 million residents have their identity used fraudulently each year, with monetary losses believed to accrue to more than $50 billion. Considering that thieves are using more and more sophisticated techniques, and that most people these days have their personal information placed at risk through online databases and websites, the statistics are alarming.
However, while you might not be able to guarantee that your identity will never be stolen, there are ways to mitigate the risks and reduce the negative results. From being aware of common scams, and keeping an eye on your credit card and bank statements, to using secure passwords, using Smart credit cards, protecting your mail, and limiting where and who you give personal information to, there are a number of tactics you can implement. Read on for top tips to protecting yourself from identity theft in this digital age.
Utilize Smart Credit Cards
When you’re selecting a credit card, it definitely pays to keep identity protection in mind. Newer “smart cards” are available these days that help provide consumer protection if fraud occurs. When you’re comparing credit card options, always look for options which are embedded with EMV microchip technology.
These smart credit cards have better fraud protection than the older-style magnetic strip cards, and can only be used with the cardholder’s unique PIN, rather than a signature that can be easily forged. The encrypted microchip on the smart cards are also more difficult for thieves and hackers to counterfeit, which is an added benefit.
Keep a Close Eye on Credit Card and Bank Accounts
If identity theft and fraud goes unnoticed for a lengthy period of time, it’s harder for you to resolve your case, the issue will drag on for longer, and the problem will cost you more. To alleviate this risk, it is essential to find out as quickly as possible if your identity has been stolen.
To do this, you should remember to regularly check your credit report, and also keep a close watch on movements on your credit cards and bank accounts. In the past, you would either check your statements on a regular basis or get a copy of your credit report from one of the national providers.
These days, however, the task is much less labor intensive. You can now use a credit monitoring service that automatically reviews your personal credit report every day in order to pick up on any changes to your score. These services charge a flat-rate yearly fee.
Alternatively, check out an app like that released by Credit Karma. The company’s free app for the iPhone provides users with free credit monitoring and credit scores. The hassle-free technology monitors your information on a daily basis and will notify you with an alert if any significant changes are detected.
You’ll receive a notification immediately (and can therefore take quick action) if the following types of changes are made: new credit accounts or inquiries; updates to personal information; new public records; delinquent payments; or improved payment history.
Protect Your Information
Another essential move to protect your identity is to keep your personal information safe. For starters, don’t simply throw any paperwork in the trash that has important details listed on it, such as your social security number, credit card numbers, bank account details, and birth date. Shred it instead and then recycle the content. It also pays to secure your mailbox with a key or to invest in a PO Box so that your mail can’t be stolen and rifled through for pertinent details.
In addition, keep in mind that your laptop, tablet and smartphone are generally chock full of personal data. If you lose one of your devices or have a gadget stolen, thieves can gain access to financial and identity information way too easily.
Make sure all of your technological items are secured with passwords that are not easily guessed, and also changed on a regular basis. It pays to use spyware, virus and firewall protection on your computer too, so that you keep it safe from hackers. When using public computers, make sure you always clear any logins and passwords so that other people can’t gain access to your private information.
Be Alert to Common Scams
Lastly, be alert to common scams. Be very careful where and how you give out your personal information. Never provide credit card, address, or other pertinent identity details on an unsecured website. Instead, look for the padlock symbol or the “https” in the address before you enter information in — this shows you that the site is secure and your information will be encrypted or scrambled.
Be cautious about providing details to people over the internet, via email, on the phone or even in person, as it could be a scam. If you’re contacted by someone asking for private information, take care to ensure that they are legitimate and not a thief trying to scam you. As well, be wary of new credit cards arriving in the mail when you didn’t apply for them, or bills being sent to you for goods or services you didn’t purchase.