Millions of people fall victim to fraud or identity theft each year. In fact, there were 16.7 million victims of identity theft in 2017 alone, an increase of one million from the year prior. These two crimes can have different, but significant, effects on your finances and credit. How can you reduce your risk of being exposed to fraud or identity theft?
Follow these six important tips to protect your personal and financial information both on and offline.
1. Check everything regularly
Most people keep a close eye on their bank statements and account activity. However, it’s also important to regularly check your credit report to make sure it’s correct, as these reports can often detect early signs of identity theft. The earlier you can detect suspicious activity, the easier it will be to clean up. Websites like TransUnion and Experian will allow you to check your credit report for free.
2. Use individual logins
A single strong password isn’t enough anymore. You must use different strong passwords for every site that you have an account. The best way to do this is to associate a key word or sentence with the website so that it’s easy for you to remember, but impossible for others to guess. For example, when creating a login for your streaming account, use your favorite TV show as a guide. The sentence, “Friends is the best. My favorite is Joey,” can be made into the password, “Fitb.MfiJ.10”.
3. Be mindful of your mailbox
Be careful about leaving mail in your mailbox for too long. Items like preapproved credit applications or blank checks that come with credit card statements can be stolen and used without your knowledge. For all outgoing mail, be sure to bring it to a post office, instead of leaving it in your mailbox for pickup, especially with mail containing sensitive personal information.
4. Shred your trash
Dumpster divers are a real threat. In order to protect yourself, shred all documents and mail that you’re disposing of to make it harder on them to identify your social security number, account numbers or just your personal information in general.
5. Don’t overshare on social
It’s easy to want to share details about your life on social media in order to update family and friends. However, it’s even easier for criminals to take personal information, such as your middle name, pet’s name, birthday, or even geotags, and use this information to steal your identity, hack your accounts or find out where you live.
6. Enlist help
Make sure you always have your bank alerts and notifications on, whether it’s via text, email, or push notification. This will allow you to recognize any strange activity immediately so that you can stop any problem before it starts. Some banks, like Radius, even have a separate app that allows you to turn off your debit card as soon as you realize you misplaced it.