Preventing damage from identity theft these days is about detection. It is nearly impossible to safeguard our information completely. Even the toughest databases can be penetrated with the smallest of exploits. For that reason, you need to expect your information to get out there and be prepared to handle the situation. Here are some things that you need to do.
1. Monitor Your Credit
It is not enough to simply pull an annual credit report to look for mistakes. If you wait that long, your credit can be completely destroyed by identity theft. Instead you need to monitor your reports continuously.
It is so simple to do that these days with a number of free and easy online services. If you have a credit card, for example, you already have access to credit monitoring. Nearly every credit card company will provide you with credit monitoring for free. Take advantage of it. Set up alerts and respond to them ASAP when you get them.
For added protection, sign up for a free monitoring service from Credit Karma or Credit Sesame. The more services that you have monitoring your credit, the faster you will be notified if a change occurs to your report such as a personal loan request or new credit account.
2. Check Your Bank Account Daily
I make it a habit every morning to check all of my bank accounts. I have an app for each on my phone, so it takes only a couple of minutes. If there is a transaction that I do not recognize, I can investigate quickly and make sure that it is valid.
This is extremely important because credit card thieves will often run a test transaction to make sure that the card is valid. They will take a few dollars now and if all is good, they will come back for a whole lot more later. It might simply be an authorization that drops off of your account record in a number of days. If you do not check your account often, you could miss it. Once they know the account is good, they will sell it or simply go to town using it very soon.
The damage from credit card fraud can often be prevented or at least greatly reduced by being watchful of your account. If you see suspicious activity, you can instantly put a hold on your card or cancel it and request a new one. Don’t wait for them to wipe you out. Even if the bank ultimately returns your money, it is a major ordeal, trust me.
3. Increase Password Security
First and foremost, you need to have a separate password for every website that you use. Yes, this is a major pain in the you no what, but it is necessary. Here is what happens if you do not do that. A hacker gains access to a lesser security website that you use. They then try that username and password at other websites. Because you use the same username and password for every website, they now have access to your bank account, mortgage account and everything else that you do online.
So, use a unique password for each website and make it difficult. Don’t even make it easy for you to remember. Instead of using something like your kids birthdays, make up a completely random one like “7&hjjKKu8*#ftT12?nM”. Impossible to guess. You can then store it in your browser, as long as your computer is secure, or use a password keeper.
Another good rule of thumb is to change your password at least twice a year. Even better, change it every three months. Stolen data is often old by the time it gets sold on the Dark Web. Changing your password often makes sure that if your information is stolen, it is useless to a thief.
4.Take Care Of Documents
Make sure that you keep your confidential documents secure and safe. A safe deposit box is a wonderful and inexpensive tool to do this. Store passports, social security cards, birth certificates and all of your other important documents in there. Also, never carry your social security card around with you in your purse or wallet.
Other confidential but disposable documents need to be handled properly. Do not just toss them in the trash can, trusting that they will make their way safely to the dump or recycling center. Shred them and if you have an old shredder, invest in a newer cross cut shredder.
5. Don’t Be A Phish
Phishing attempts are rampant, so you need to be careful. Thieves are getting much more sophisticated so you need to use caution in every way. Never give out personal information by phone when someone calls you. If your bank needs to talk to you. hang up and look up their official number and call them back. Make sure to take the time to verify that the number you call is accurate.
Also, if you get an official looking email, never click on a link to visit a company. Look up the internet address and travel their directly instead. Thieves can accurately recreate a website so well, that you would never know the difference.
There is realistically nothing that you can do to keep your information completely safe from hackers and thieves. It is all in the hands of those that we entrust our information to. Even the best of those companies can have a breach. All it takes is for a hacker to find one tiny vulnerability.
Your best line of defense is detection. You want to be able to catch the leak quick so that you can mitigate the damage. Doing so can keep a breach a minor annoyance instead of a major catastrophe.