9 Top Identity Theft Protection Tips

27 October 2014

Identity theft can be a scary and intimidating issue for most of us. Unfortunately, it's crucial to approach the problem proactively in order to protect yourself.

Thieves can assume your identity using a surprisingly small amount of information. This means that access to your credit card numbers, date of birth or social insurance number can have a devastating effect on your life and bank account and can take months to clean up.

In order to keep yourself safe, here are a few identity theft protection tips you can use in your daily life.

  • Avoid phishing scams: Don't click on links emailed to you from unknown addresses. Some cybercriminals will pretend to be your bank and ask you to provide sensitive personal information or direct you to a fake website to sign into your account where they are actually collecting your username and password. Trustworthy organizations never operate in this manner, so if you are unsure about an email you receive, be sure to call the company directly before you respond.
  • Create complex passwords: Use long, complicated passwords including at least one capital letter, a number and a symbol. Avoid using common phrases like 'password,' your birthdate, your mother's maiden name, your pet's name or your place of work or favorite hobby as thieves can often guess these easily. It's also important to change your passwords frequently especially as data breaches continue to become a regular occurrence.
  • Don't publish private information online: Be aware that you may be spreading personal information through your online social networks. Your location, birthdate, birthplace and phone number are all things you could be publishing that might also be used to validate your identity to a third party.
  • Don't share your passwords: Don't give your passwords to anyone, even if it seems convenient and safe at the time. Exposing the information to the world in any way can create an unnecessary vulnerability.
  • Monitor your credit report: Keeping an eye on your credit report can help you spot fraud earlier allowing you to stop the problem before it does too much damage. It can be difficult for you to get your credit cleaned up after a lengthy period of undetected identity theft, so credit monitoring services can provide you with a little extra peace of mind.
  • Never reuse a password: Make sure you use a different password for every account. If you don't, a hacker has many more chances of guessing your password, which would then give them access to accounts of greater sensitivity. Try using a password manager if you're having trouble keeping track.
  • Protect your mobile device: If you use mobile banking applications, create a strong passcode to lock your phone. Fingerprint authentication can be even more secure if your phone comes with that option. Also make sure the apps you want to use are reputable before downloading them.
  • Say no to public Wi-Fi: If you're using a public internet connection, don't accesses secure information. Avoid banking and shopping online, because hackers can easily access that information while on the same network.
  • Store your data safely: Be sure to install antivirus software on your computer and keep it up to date. Store all of your sensitive paperwork such as bank statements in a locked safe in your home and make sure to shred them before throwing them away.