We’ve all heard about it. Identity Theft. There seem to be more data breach occurrences all the time, but how can you protect yourself and your information from thieves?
In the case of a data breach, if you think your information may have been compromised, check your statements often and continue to check them. Many times, identity thieves will sit on the information for months before using it. If you see anything unfamiliar on your bank statement, credit card statements or your credit report, make sure you deal with it immediately. Call the bank or credit card company first. If there is truly something you do not recognize, report it to the bank and the authorities and place a fraud alert on your credit report.
A fraud alert is especially important if you think your social security number has been stolen. You will have to call each of the three credit reporting agencies- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion- and make this request. If the breach involved your bank account or credit card, ask your bank to give you a new account number. This will prevent any further attempts to get at your accounts.
Even if you have not been a victim of identity theft, you should still be vigilant. Don’t wait until you something happens. You should always monitor your accounts. There is no foolproof plan, but there are plenty of ways to increase your chances of keeping your information safe.
-Keep your passwords secure and change them often. Do not use personal information in your passwords. Use a mix of different types of characters to make the password harder to crack.
-When making purchases, be sure the website is secure. Do not give out your credit card information unless you are confident that it will not be misused.
-Scam artists "phish" for victims by pretending to be banks, stores or government agencies. They do this over the phone, text messages, e-mails and in the regular mail. Avoid clicking on direct links or opening attachments in emails or texts if you were not expecting the message. Do not respond to any request to verify your account number or password. Legitimate companies do not request information this way.
-Shred all documents with personal information. Never just throw them in the trash.
-Above all else, protect your Social Security Number. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when a business or agency asks for your personal information. Ask how it will be used and how it will be protected.