Today, your identity is the equivalent of gold to scammers and cyberthieves that are always lurking in the background. If you are not careful or do not take steps to actively protect yourself, your identity could be stolen, and it can have dire financial consequences. Your name, email address, Social Security information, banking details, and other information can be manipulated easily and without your knowledge. The end result can be terrifying and earth-shattering, so steps must be taken to safeguard yourself from identity theft.
How Does Identity Theft Happen?
Identity theft occurs when someone accesses your personal information such as your Social Security details for purposes of fraud. An identity thief can use your personal information for a number of purposes, including altering your medical records, stealing your money, and even opening credit card accounts in your name. Identify theft can have a negative impact on your finances and it can make your life a living hell.
How to protect yourself from identity theft:
Strengthen Your Passwords
If your passwords are strong, it makes it a lot harder for a cyberthief to steal your identity. Use a random combination of numbers, letters, and symbols or special characters and ensure that you change them frequently.
Shred All Personal Documents
If you have been tossing your statements and credit card receipts in the trash without shredding them, consider investing in a quality shredder. This is one of the easiest ways for scammers to access your personal information for fraud.
Secure Your Mailbox
Do not allow letters to accumulate in your mailbox as they can be stolen. Criminals have a tendency to snatch credit card pitches from neglected mailboxes for fraud purposes. Also, mail your outgoing bill payments and checks from the post office or from another location as they can be removed from your box and the payee’s name can be easily erased with solvents.
Keep Your Social Security Number Safe
If you can, avoid carrying your Social Security card unless you need it. Your Social Security card is the primary target for most scammers and identity thieves as it can facilitate a number of crimes such as illegally accessing your credit report or banking account details.
Don’t Leave a Trail
A paper trail may seem harmless, but something as simple as an ATM, gas station, or credit card receipt can be a gateway to identity crime.
Monitor Your Credit Report
Obtain and go through your credit card report at least once a year so that you can catch any suspicious activity and stop it before it does too much damage to your finances. If you find something worrying or suspicious, contact your creditor as soon as you can to get back control.