There’s only one you…right? Identity theft is a major concern for every person in today’s digital age. Thieves can access your personal information in so many ways and do a wealth of damage in a short amount of time. Whether you’re trying to buy a home or are already a homeowner, your financial security should be a top priority. We have ways for you to identify if you’ve become a victim and ways for you to protect yourself.
What Is Identity Theft
Identity theft goes well beyond stealing a credit card number and charging purchases. Thieves today can gain access to your social security number, your date of birth, and any other personal identifying information and create an entirely separate version of you. With personal information they can open up new accounts and complete transaction, even buying property, in your name. Other thieves may simply use the information to take control of your accounts and run with the money.
How to Tell If You’re a Victim
Since identity theft relies on stealth on the part of the thief, you won’t know you’ve been targeted until after you’ve been victimized. Unauthorized withdrawals on your bank account, purchases on your credit cards, and receiving mail from institutions that you don’t have dealings with are all common signs that you’ve been the subject of identity theft. Other red flags include being notified by the IRS that a tax return has been filed under your name.
Identity theft is a crime of opportunity and thieves are looking for easily accessible information. Shredding any paperwork that has personal identifying information before it is thrown out is a good practice. Limit who you share your personal information with and how you share it. If you do share it make sure you are the party initiating the conversation; scammers often call unsuspecting people posing as representatives from a bank, utility, or the IRS and ask to confirm personal information.
Online shopping is a popular way for thieves to gather your information. Be sure you’re shopping on sites that have the HTTPS and TSL/SSL designations. Try to use credit cards when shopping instead of your bank debit cards this provides you a layer of fraud protection that most bank accounts don’t offer. An added layer of protection is to assign individual passwords to each of your accounts or profiles. To keep track of them you can use an encrypted password management program.
Another great step in protecting yourself is investing in identity theft protection. This is a type of insurance that could be offered by your credit card company, bank, or even insurance provider. Plans very greatly so make sure you have one that not only monitors your credit but also helps you remediation for any damage done.
Protecting yourself from identity theft isn’t a difficult task. It relies on awareness and taking one or two extra steps. The minimal effort is well worth the reward of having a secure and healthy financial identity.