There is nothing worse than identity theft. Having someone steal an account from you or open new ones in your name is a huge ordeal. It can take months or even years to fully recover from the damage. Like everything else in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Take a look at some simple ways that you can prevent becoming a victim in the first place.
1) Use Credit Monitoring
This is the very first thing that you need to do in order to protect yourself. Credit monitoring will notify you just as soon as a change is detected to your credit report. This could be just a simple inquiry or a new account. In any case, you find out fast so that you can take action.
There is really no excuse not to be using multiple credit monitoring services. Why? Because they are free. Credit Karma and Credit Sesame are two of the bigger free monitoring services. They will advertise to you relentlessly, but they are free. In addition, most credit credit card providers will offer free monitoring. Take advantage.
2) Check Your Accounts
Credit monitoring can really only detect new accounts and inquiries. How can you detect if someone steals your credit card or account information?
Credit providers do a decent job of detecting illegal activity, but they can not pick up everything. For this, it is up to you. Check your account balances daily for the best protection. This means manually checking each account and looking for new or pending transactions.
This might seem like it would take forever, but it really is not that hard. Just save all of your accounts in a browser tab and load them all at once. It takes about a minute and if you see something odd, you can nip it in the bud immediately, before the damage gets bad.
3) Use Better Passwords
People are generally lazy with passwords and criminals take full advantage of this. You should be using a random password and you should use a different one for each website you use. Here is why.
If you use a password that can be guessed, it is possible for hackers to use a Brute Force hacking attack to guess yours. They try millions of random combinations until they guess yours. You might think your password is unique, but someone else likely has a dog by the same name.
As for using a unique password for every website, this is in case one site gets hacked. If you use the same password on every website, if a hacker gets into a low security website, they will likely now have your bank password. Then, all they have to do is try to log in to every bank on the internet until they find your account.
Use unique random passwords and let your secure browser manage them.
4) Get A Shredder
You can get a good cross cut shredder for around $50. Do so and use it. Shred anything that has your name on it. Even if you think that there is no sensitive information on it, go ahead and shred it. You never know what angle an identity thief is going to use.
5) Be Skeptical Of Emails & Calls
If someone contacts you, always be skeptical of who the person really is. This could be an email from a bank or a phone call from your credit card company. Never confirm any information with them until you have positively identified them. Crooks will go as far as even recreating entire websites on similar domain names to fool you.
If someone contacts you, tell them that you will call them back. Then, look up the number and call it directly. As far as emails, never click on any links. Search for the address of the company in question to visit them, no matter how legit the email looks. Don’t be a Phish.
6) Keep An Eye On Your Plastic
Last, but certainly not least, keep an eye on your credit cards. Try to never let them out of your sight if possible, because it is too easy for them to get skimmed. This might mean paying with cash at restaurants, but it is worth it for the extra security.
Also, be wary of gas pumps. Skimmers are a huge problem, so look for anything out of the ordinary at the pump. In addition, choose pumps closer to an attendant. Pumps in view are harder to install skimmers on.