Identity theft is a significant issue in the modern age. With the rise of the internet and conversion to digital commerce, stealing identities has become somewhat easier for the savvy criminal. Therefore, protecting yourself is more important now than ever before.
Identity protection is about building access barriers. You should use multiple strategies to protect your information in both the real and digital world. The remainder of this post will discuss four practices to prevent theft and ultimately protect your identity.
1. Do Not Give Out Personal Information Over the Phone
It is happening more and more often. Unsuspecting people, typically senior citizens or the elderly, receive a phone call explaining they owe money to the IRS or that a relative has left them a small fortune. In both situations, the caller requires some information: name, birthday, social security number, address, etc. While a majority of potential victims will blow these calls off, others feel compelled by the supposed legal repercussions or emotional appeal.
Do not, under any circumstances, give out personal information over the phone, unless you are certain of the person or agency on the other end of the line. Any official government institution will use the mail to notify individuals of any crucial information or debt.
If you receive a suspicious phone call, instead of giving your information willingly, tell the caller you will contact the agency or person they claim to represent and verify the information. It is amazing how much a scammer can do with only a little information.
2. Protect Personal Documents and Trash
Have you ever left mail in your mailbox because you were too tired to make the short walk down the driveway? One of the most popular ways identity thieves gain access to personal information is by snooping in neighborhood mailboxes. It doesn’t take long either. If possible, collect your mail as soon as it is delivered. If you cannot, consider getting a secure and lockable box installed on your property.
Another popular theft method is going through your trash for personal item, such as prescription bottles, junk mail, utility bills, etc. To prevent the invasion of your privacy, get a crosscut paper shredder for your mail and a blackout stamp for your pill bottles.
3. Password Protect Everything and Use a Password Manager
Worrying about physical theft of personal items is not the only concern. Many identity thieves are tech savvy, meaning they are learning to hack devices and steal passwords. While protecting all your digital accounts with a complex and non-personal password is advisable, it is best to use a password manager to create unique passcodes for every account.
Many people fall into the trap of using a single password for all accounts. Even if the password is excellent, if a thief gets ahold of that single password, they now have access to your entire digital life.
4. Avoid Suspicious Emails and Texts
It is becoming more and more common for thieves to use email and text message links to try and entice unsuspecting users to enter sensitive information. These cyber attacks are called phishing attacks. Some of the links you’ll find in emails or on mobile devices have encrypted malware, meaning once you click the link, the thief has access to your device and any personal information stored on it. Do not click on suspicious links, and verify anything you are unsure of by contacting the supposed institution.
Have you ever been the victim of identity theft? Leave a comment below discussing your experience and anything you learned that could be helpful to other contributors.