The 8 Step Method To Reduce Identity Theft Risk
According to the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN), there were over two million identity theft complaints to government agencies in 2013
. Such a disastrous act happening so frequently is alarming, especially because the threat is not going down as time goes on. As technology evolves, so too do ways to steal credit card information. Protecting yourself from identity theft completely is impossible, but there are some ways of reducing your risk and stopping a threat before it becomes a serious concern. Here are eight tried and true ways to reduce identity theft risk.
SEE ALSO: Everything You Need To Know About Your Credit Report
1. Shred It
One of the most common ways of stealing a persons identity is simply fishing through the trash to find old bank statements, credit card offers, and bills
. With that information, identity thieves can open new accounts or change existing ones to fit their desires.
So, before you go throwing away those old bank statements, shred it. If you dont have a shredder, rip it. Do whatever it takes so that finding that critical information in the trash is nearly impossible.
2. Use Credit Cards
This might seem to go against everything your parents taught you as a child. Namely, that you dont want to use credit cards because you have to pay them down and you might spend more than you can afford. While this is true, if you can budget yourself, using a credit card is better than using a debit card for security reasons
. Unlike debit cards, credit cards have several layers of fraud protection. In fact, many credit card companies will call you to verify out of the ordinary purchases, adding another layer of protection.
3. Use Secure Networks Only
Everyone in the coffee shop you go to might seem friendly and reliable, but that doesnt necessarily mean that youre safe to use the shops WiFi to pay a bill or buy new shoes. Public WiFi poses a serious threat to identity security
because it is easily accessed and easily hacked. So, wait to pay that bill until youre at home on a more secure network.
The same advice goes for smart phones. Even if you are not using public WiFi, smart phone security is lax at best
, so you are constantly in danger of being hacked. While downloading the mobile bill pay apps for your bank might be tempting, stray away from using them. Doing so might endanger your account and cause problems down the road.
4. Keep Your Ear To The Ground
No matter how secure you might think youve made your network and your transactions, a skilled hacker or identity thief might still be able to poke holes in them. Thats why you always have to be on the lookout for unusual charges
on your bank accounts, credit card denials, and information on accounts you never opened. All of these things are signs that your account has been hacked.
If youre careful and catch the error early, you might be able to get your money back, switch or close accounts, or file a claim. But dont wait for your bank to come find you about suspicious transactions
. Be proactive about your security, or it might cost you.
5. Watch For Double Tax Returns
Getting a letter from the IRS saying that youve filed more than one copy of your tax return should put you on high alert. Often times, identity thieves submit a copy of a tax return in your name
. Another sign of an identity theft is consistently receiving mail that isnt yours. So, even though sifting through all the ads that come into your mail daily might not seem like a fun task, you should still do it to keep your identity secure.
6. Order Your Credit Report
Every year, you are allowed to access your credit score once for free
. Dont throw away this opportunity. Looking at your credit report is crucial for picking out suspicious activitieslike loans taken out in your name, but are not yoursbefore they become a serious problem. Dont wait until youre attempting to finance a big purchase to look at your report. It might end in disappointment.
SEE ALSO: Top 10 Ways You Are Hurting Your Credit Score
7. Place A Fraud Alert
Has your identity been stolen before? Do you move frequently or live in a high crime area? If you do, you might want to put a fraud alert on credit file. Doing so will cause credit agencies to contact you whenever someone attempts to open a new credit line
. Youll need to do this with all three credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
8. Do Not Give Out Your Information
This might seem like a no-brainer, but youd be surprised. Even giving your social security number to a member of your family could be dangerous
. For example, if youre on the phone and you say your social security number to your mother, someone might overhear and take it down. The same goes for text messages and emails. If you must give out your information, do so in person and in a private setting. Youll thank yourself for doing so later.
The main thing to remember when it comes to identity theft is diligence
. Slacking on your security could have disastrous effects. On the other hand, spending five minutes of your time fixing an error, shredding a document, or logging on securely to private information can save you hours in the long run.