Identity theft is on the rise. You only need to look at the latest statistics pertaining to this crime and you will realize that everybody is at risk, regardless of financial health, social status and so on.
Almost all of us conduct various kinds of activities online and this means sharing personal information and financial information too. It makes sense therefore to adopt a few good practices and prevent identity theft online.
Wolf in sheep’s clothing
There is an alarmingly large number of websites out there that look like the real deal. In fact, they can even mimic the website of your banks. Be aware of and wary of websites that ask for important information from you:
- Social security numbers.
- Your bank account details.
- Information pertaining to your insurance, medical insurance, home address and even your driver’s license number.
- Personal information such as your spouse’s name, your pet’s name and your birthdate and so on.
Why personal information?
Many of us use personal information as passwords. A cyber criminal can make several attempts at guessing some combination of your password and gain access to all your accounts too. Go one step further and limit the sharing of such information on social media sites as well. With a public profile, you leave yourself very exposed to social engineering.
Invest in great security measures
Identity theft can happen to people in any age and social category. It therefore makes a lot of sense for you to invest in protection or coverage plans provided by professionals. Read up on companies such as LifeLock reviews before signing up with them. You will then be able to avail the services of a company that has:
- Been in the business since 2005.
- Great plans for every budget.
- Identity protection for children as well.
- Comprehensive protection to take care of your loans, accounts and so on.
Build your passwords
If you have multiple bank accounts and have created accounts with various websites, you should craft, yes, craft, strong passwords that are unique to each site. Using the same password for all your bank accounts makes it easy for cyber criminals. Also, change these passwords frequently. Most banks prompt you to do so after a certain number of days and if they do not, then you need to take the step and change them yourself.
Take the following steps to protect them:
- Hide your passwords and PIN when you are in a public place.
- Do not write them on paper and carry them around with you wherever you go.
- If you have to store passwords somewhere then encrypt this information.
There is no need to share such passwords or even one-time passwords that can be generated by a few websites with anybody. Stay away from using personal information to create a password.
Monitor your accounts
Credit profile or credit scores is not something that most people monitor on a regular basis. This is a mistake! Monitor not just your credit profile but also your bank statements, credit card statements and virtually any other bill and financial statement that get generated against your name. If there is some entry that you are not familiar with, ask for information from your financial agency. Avail the benefit of your free annual credit report so you can be sure that nobody is using your information in any manner.
Your emails and phones
It is good to open email attachments with care. Invest in great anti-virus software and beware of phishing scams and attachments that can come with malware. Cyber criminals are not going to send you suspicious looking emails. There will be incentives such as freebies or even news of you winning a contest with great rewards. Engaging in such conversations, in most cases, leaves you open to identity theft.
Cold calls or even calls from your service providers asking for feedback are something that should be taken on with caution. There is absolutely no need to divulge financial and personal information of any kind on such telephone calls. It is interesting to note that the websites of well-established banks will always caution you against accepting and responding to such emails and phone calls. Your bank will not call you to ask for passwords or account details.
In public places
If you have to use a public computer for your online activity, then ensure that you do not leave the machine unattended for any duration of time. This is even more important if you are conducting some banking or financial transactions. When you have finished your work, log out and shut down all the windows that you have opened.
Finally, invest in great software and operating systems for your personal computers and phones and update everything regularly too. Wireless networks come with various kinds of security features so you should invest in such a network too.