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7 Simple Ways To Prevent Identity Theft

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Identity Theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. According to official statistics, more than 10 million people fall prey to identity theft scams every year. Considering that it takes more than $500 and almost 600 hours to get back your reputation, it makes sense to use precautionary measures to avoid becoming the next victim of identity theft. Here are 7 easy ways to prevent identify theft:

Tip #1: Protect your Social Security Number – An identity thief can easily assume your identity if he manages to get hold of your social security number. You should avoid carrying your social security card (or other documents that contain social security number) in person and must never reveal its details through telephone, emails or instant messages.

Tip #2: Avoid Phishing Scams – Phishing is a technique used by cyber criminals to steal bank account details and money from online users. To avoid becoming a victim of phishing scams, do not click on links in emails that ask you to verify your bank account numbers, passwords, address and other details. Even if you are 100% sure that the message is indeed from your bank, you must always visit the bank’s website by typing its URL in the address bar of the browser (or by using official banking apps).

Tip #3: Destroy Documents – Do not throw away your credit report, bank statements, credit card statements, medical statements, ATM receipts or documents containing your name, address, social security number or credit card details. Buy a good shredder that is capable of shredding documents into bit sized pieces and make it a point to use it before disposing your documents. Also, remember to wipe clean the hard disks and memory cards of your computers, mobile phones and tablets before disposing them.

Tip #4: Protect Digital Data – These days, most of our data is stored in the digital format so the importance of protecting it cannot be overstated. Invest in a good anti-virus and firewall program to protect your data from malicious viruses, spywares, malwares and key loggers. Always choose strong passwords and change them on a regular basis so that your personal data remains safe and secure. You should also desist from writing down your passwords on a piece of paper or storing them on your computer or mobile devices.

For those who travel a lot, you must avoid accessing your emails, logging into social networking sites and carrying out financial transactions from public Wi-Fi hotspots since it is extremely easy for hackers to steal data from such networks. However, if you do need to check your email or send money through a Wi-Fi network, consider subscribing to a reliable VPN service like PureVPNExpressVPN,or IPVanish in addition to using anti-virus and firewall programs.

Tip #5: Protect Your Mailbox – It is not merely sufficient to protect your digital data, you also need to secure your snail mail. Check your mail on a regular basis and switch over to paper-less options wherever possible (for instance, bank and credit card statements). Get a post office box if you cannot check your mail from time to time since it will significantly reduce the chances of getting your personal details stolen from your mailbox. Finally, it is never a good idea to leave paid bills in mailboxes; you must pay them online or visit a post office yourself.

Tip #6: Check Your Statements – Make it a point to go through your bank statements, credit card statements and credit report on a regular basis. If you spot a discrepancy, report it to your bank or Credit Bureau immediately.

Tip #7: Protect Your Cards – While withdrawing cash from ATMs, cover the keypad with one hand to avoid revealing your PIN to shoulder surfers. While shopping online, do not buy from stores that do not have a padlock icon and “HTTPS” protocol in the address bar. For enhanced security, you can also write “Check ID” in the Signature box of your credit card and even switch to PIN only credit cards so that your credit cards cannot be used even if they get stolen.

April 23, 2014

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