Identity theft is becoming a common crime these days. A look at the daily news will tell you how easy it has become for criminals to steal our identity and the sheer frequency of such incidents is bound to cause sleepless nights to many of us. According to studies conducted by research agency Javelin, an identity theft incident occurs every three seconds. It means that by the time we read this sentence, somebody, somewhere, might have stolen someone’s identity.
The data breaches in 2014 showed us how vulnerable our personal information is to theft. From large corporations such as eBay to even state run institutions such as the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Target Department stores to Sony Pictures, everybody is capable of being attacked despite having strong security systems in place.
If identity theft was not painful enough, the process to sort things out is even more painful. When the stolen identity is used to make large purchases or take loans, it can cause serious problems. The process to restore your identity and clear your name can take a lot of time and cost a lot of money. In fact, some cases have been known to take many years. On the bright side, a good identity theft insurance policy can ease the additional financial expense related to clearing one’s name.
Even though identity theft insurance can help, it’s much better to prevent the theft from happening in the first place. Here are some preventative steps that you can take to help minimize the likelihood that you become a victim.
Protect Yourself First
Identity theft may sound like a high-tech term that produces images of criminals sitting in a dimly lit room surrounded by state of the art computers and gadgets. A lot of identity theft cases start off with a mugging or burglary, where the criminal’s main intention is to steal money, a credit/debit card or an expensive device. The criminal can then use the stolen card to make transactions in your name or use the device to extract private information. In some cases, a common criminal can sell the hardware or the data to larger criminal organizations, which can then go on to use the information for their own benefit. If out traveling on foot at night, go with a friend or two and only travel in well lite areas.
Protect Your Electronic Data
Mobile devices and other gadgets such as PCs or laptops should be secured with strong passwords. An effective security solution should be installed on all devices that contain or have access to personal data. You must be careful about where and when you use your devices. You should also be very careful when using public unsecured Wi-Fi as they are highly insecure. Public wireless networks are one of the most common ways through which criminals gain access to devices and eventually your personal information.
Use strong passwords. Hackers have software that can crack a 6 character password in as little as 10 minutes! Conversely, it will take several years to hack a password at least nine characters in length, includes both upper and lower case letters, and at least 1 number or symbol.
Finally, don’t have your password written down on a post it note alongside your home computer. Have all passwords secured.
Keep Your Private Information Private
Care must be taken when you share personal information on the internet, especially on social media. Avoid posting sensitive information such as your full name, your address, or your phone numbers. Though this might come as a surprise, identity thieves can do a lot of damage with very little information. You also shouldn’t respond to queries from sources that you are not sure of. For instance, you shouldn’t fill out surveys when the source is not someone you recognize and trust. These surveys are a common method used to extract personal information from people.
Never throw your credit card, bank, or investment statements out in the garbage! Thieves have been known to go through garbage on the curb or dumpster and look for this information. Once they get it, they can sell it on internet to who knows where and it can cause a lot of grief.
Keep an Eye on Your Transactions
Keeping a close eye on debit/credit card transactions is a good idea. You should be observant and keep an eye out for suspicious transactions or those you don’t recognize. If you see a transaction that you can’t identify, call your bank or credit union to confirm what the charge was for and that it is legitimate.
If you are planning a trip out of state or country, call your credit card companies before leaving and let them know where you will be and dates of travel. Many credit card companies have become very good at identifying unusual activity and may shut the card off to protect their client. This could cause an issue if you were planning on using the card on a purchase.
Protect Your Children’s Data
While your kids might not have credit cards just yet, they do have a name and Social Security Number. Identity thieves can use you children’s name, address and other personal data to setup fictitious identities, which can be used to commit cyber-crimes. One of the reasons children are a common victim of identity theft, is because their social security numbers are rarely monitored until they turn 18.
ID Theft Insurance
So while you can take steps to minimize the chance you become a victim of identity theft, there are no guarantees. The good news is that identity theft insurance is very inexpensive. You’ll be glad you have it when you incur the added expenses related to repairing your credit.