In the Information Age, data is everything. From browsing AT&T offers on your phone to making a secure payment online, everything generates data. In fact, data is arguably more precious and valuable than gold is in the present age. Your digital identity is a valuable resource.
Like any valuable commodity, there will always be people who try to steal it. This blog will explore steps you can take to protect yourself.
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Identity Theft and How to Guard Against it
What is your digital identity?
Well, essentially, everything about you is your digital identity. Every bit of information stored in any database can be part of your identity. But for the purpose of this discussion, we will narrow your digital identity. Your name, social security number, email account, phone, and banking information are all part of your digital identity. And all can be stolen if you aren’t careful. Identity theft is stealing a person’s digital identity to commit fraud. 9 million Americans are victims of identity theft every year.
Here are some ways you can protect yourself from it:
- Stronger Passwords
- Limit Online Sharing
- Use Up-to-Date Security Software
- Track Credit Reports
- Review Credit Scores
- Shred Sensitive Information
- Freeze Credit Reports
- Use Text Alerts
- Use Reputable Sites
- Be Skeptical
Below follows a brief look at each step that can protect you from identity theft.
Using stronger passwords is the first thing you can do to make it harder for people to steal your identity. Using weak passwords, or the same password for all your accounts is dangerous. If one account is compromised, all your information can be stolen. Use unique passwords for each of your online accounts. Strong passwords are passwords that contain random letters, numbers, upper and lower case characters, and symbols. They are safer and harder to guess than typical passwords.
Limit Online Sharing
Another precaution you can take is to limit the information you share online. Especially on your social platforms. A lot of the information publically available on your social media profiles is telling. It can help scammers guess your passwords and security questions. Try to avoid sharing your phone number, email address, birthdate. Or even any other information that could compromise your identity.
Use Up-to-Date Security Software
Just using antivirus is not enough these days. Digital threats are constantly evolving. So you need up-to-date security software that can deal with even the newest threats. Keeping your phone or laptop safe from malware and spyware can make it harder to steal your identity.
Track Credit Reports
Periodically get a credit report from one of the three credit reporting organizations. Equifax, Transunion, and Experian are bound by law to give you a free credit report once a year when asked. Get a report once from each bureau and track your credit reports periodically.
Review Credit Scores
When you get a credit report from a credit bureau, be sure to review it. You need to check if something about your credit information does not add up. Pay attention to new loans, credit cards or weird transactions. If anything feels off, immediately contact your credit bureau or bank.
Shred Sensitive Information
This is not so much digital as physical, but it’s still an important precaution. Scammers often steal information from your rubbish bin. Any discarded bills or old reports can land in the wrong hands. So it pays to have a shredder handy. You can shred old documents that can potentially lead to identity theft. Even if scammers do get to your trash, they won’t get away with much.
Freeze Credit Reports
Many scams make use of stolen identities to open new accounts or get more loans. One step you can take to guard against this is to freeze your credit. This means nobody can get new credit without further controls and information. This makes it difficult for scammers to use your stolen information to open new lines of credit.
Use Text Alerts
A text alert on your mobile phone can be a lifesaver. Especially if someone is making illegal transactions using your information. Most banks send you a text every time a transaction from your account occurs. Keep a close eye on these texts, and report anything suspicious immediately.
Use Reputable Sites
Another good precaution is to watch where you give out your information. Always use reputable websites, especially for e-commerce. An SSL certificate makes it harder to steal your bank or credit card information. A website with the https:// prefix has an SSL certificate and is usually safe.
Healthy skepticism is always good, especially when it comes to the internet. Be very wary of phishing scams. If something feels off about a call or email, don’t give out information or click on links. Don’t make it easy for scammers to get your information. Be alert to everything you encounter.
Don’t trust a call pretending to be the AT&T customer service number that asks for personal data. Scammers often ask you for your complete SSN or bank information. Most organizations already have all the information they need from you. So treat everything with a healthy dose of skepticism. Especially when giving out sensitive information.
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