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Outsmarting Identity Thieves: 9 Simple Strategies To Protect Your Personal Information

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Outsmarting Identity Thieves: 9 Simple Strategies To Protect Your Personal Information

These days, no one can feel safe from identity theft in the digital world. After all, identity thieves are constantly finding new ways to take advantage of people. But unfortunately, it’s easier than ever before for scam artists and criminals to intercept your personal information and make off with your hard-earned money. That’s why it’s so important to be proactive about protecting yourself from identity theft and fraud.

In this article, we’ll discuss nine practical strategies you can adopt to combat identity theft and prevent others from stealing your personal data. Using a combination of tactics, you can take control over your credit reports and guard yourself against the increased risk of becoming the next victim of identity theft.

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft refers to people who illegally use another’s personal information without permission. These individuals steal personal information, such as a social security number, credit card or insurance numbers, or medical information, from their victims to fraudulently gain access to their finances. Identity thieves use the stolen information to open new bank accounts, apply for loans, make purchases using that person’s information, or even completely assume that person’s identity.

Victims of identity theft suffer in multiple ways, including financial loss, damage to their credit history, and emotional suffering. People can prevent identity theft by regularly monitoring their financial accounts, passwords and personal information they share online.

Types Of Identity Theft

  1. Financial Identity Theft: This is when a thief gets ahold of a person’s information and then uses the identity to make fraudulent charges, purchases or open a new account.
  1. Medical Identity Theft: Someone else pretends to be you to get medical services, prescription drugs, or file phony medical insurance claims.
  1. Child Identity Theft: Because kids have good credit histories and can use their identities to open new accounts or commit fraud, identity thieves prize children’s social security numbers.
  1. Synthetic Identity Theft: In this case, thieves create a new identity by using a combination of real and fictitious information. The new identity can then be used to obtain credit or to carry out other criminal acts.

Impacts of Identity Theft

Identity theft can have a significant effect on individuals, businesses and society. For individuals, the consequences can be dire. An identity thief may drain bank accounts or use credit cards to make fraudulent charges. Identity theft can lower one’s credit score, making it more difficult to get a mortgage or credit agreement in the future.

Identity theft can also be psychologically damaging, as the theft of one’s personal information can stay with a person. For businesses, they can be the legal and financial targets of wronged customers to whom privacy was breached. Businesses can also start to suffer increased regulatory attention if identity theft and fraud are suspected.

Finally, identity theft harms society. Online transactions might lose trust, weakening the digital economy. Customers may demand more privacy and security, slowing digital infrastructure investment and reducing competitiveness.

9 Simple Ways To Thwart Identity Theft

  1. Use Strong And Unique Passwords: Ok, we get it. It is hard to remember so many different passwords, and it is easier to just use your tried and true password for every website, so that you cannot possibly forget it. But this puts you at risk of losing your password to the people who might steal it, and makes it easier to get into all your accounts once they learn your one go-to username/password combo.

Instead, create complex passwords for your online accounts; don’t use the same password on more than one site. You can use a password manager to keep track of those passwords, or you can even invent a password system that you can remember by heart, either on your smartphone or written down in a place where it’s safe but easy to find.

  1. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): This second factor prevents others from accessing your online accounts. In most cases, two-factor authentication requires users to enter a verification code sent to their mobile device after they’ve entered their password. You can enable two-factor authentication for many of your online accounts to increase the security of your information.
  2. Be Vigilant With Personal Information: Never provide sensitive information via an unsolicited electronic message that requests it, such as your social security number or bank account information. Never submit personal information to a website that does not have an https in the URL, which indicates a secure connection. No matter the circumstances or how legitimate an electronic message appears to be, ask yourself if you really need to share information. The harsh reality is that you should always be suspicious about someone who requests your personal information.
  3. Regularly Monitor Your Credit Reports: Get your free credit reports from the three big credit bureaus, check them for anything suspicious or inaccurate, and report it right away. Don’t wait for something to go wrong before checking your credit report; check it often and stay up to date with any wrongdoing or errors found.
  4. Protect Your Social Security Number: Treat your social security number as highly confidential. Avoid carrying your social security card in your wallet and only provide it when necessary. If someone else, not you, initiates the contact and asks for your social security number, be highly suspicious and think long and hard before providing it.
  5. Safely Dispose Of Sensitive Documents: Shred any document that contains personal information before throwing it away: bank statements, credit card solicitations, medical records. If shredding is not an option, have someone else do it for you, either through a shredding service or by taking them to your bank or credit union, where they can be shredded for you.
  6. Stay Informed About Phishing Scams: Be suspicious of unsolicited emails, text messages or phone calls asking for information. Phishers attempting to extract sensitive information from you will try to create anxiety to speed you up, and make you think you are in a time sensitive situation. Take your time to check the authenticity of the request. Legitimate sources will recognize that you will want some time to do so, whereas a scammer will try to pressure you.
  7. Use Secure Wi-Fi Networks: For instance, don’t do online banking or online shopping over a public Wi-Fi network. If you do use a public Wi-Fi network, consider using a virtual private network (VPN). This type of network encrypts your connection to the internet.
  8. Be Cautious Of Social Media Settings: Check your social media privacy settings. Control which parts of the profile people can see. Don’t accept friend requests from a complete stranger. Never share any personal details through social media with someone you don’t know in person or with someone you trust. Scammers will use your social media profile to get access to your personal information, so don’t share every detail of your life through social media.

Steps To Take If You Become A Victim Of Identity Theft

If you discover that you have fallen victim to identity theft, take immediate action. Follow these steps to minimize the damage:

1. Report the theft to police: File a police report with your local police department. Doing so can help you dispute fraudulent accounts or charges.

2. Notify credit bureaus and financial institutions: Call the three major credit bureaus and report the identity theft, requesting a fraud alert be placed on your credit reports. Notify your financial institutions, and monitor your accounts for any irregularities.
3. Update your security measures for online accounts: Change the password on your online accounts: In particular, if you have reused any passwords that were compromised in this breach, change them now. For accounts that support two-factor authentication, enable it.

4. Keep good records. Record all communications relating to the identity theft; include dates, times, and names of people spoken to for use later during recovery.

Take Preemptive Action Today With Loker Law

Sometimes the best defense really is a good offense. If hackers are going to look for weaknesses in your personal defenses, you want those defenses to be as strong as possible. That means you need to be proactive; follow the recommendations above, and you’ll find yourself in a good position to minimize the wreckage caused when things go wrong. If it’s already late in the game and someone has managed to breach your defenses, feel free to call us; we’re more than happy to help. Call Loker Law for a free consultation today!

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