Anyone is smart enough to outwit an identity thief. Contrary to the image of the computer whiz hacking into a website to steal your personal information, most identity thieves aren’t that sophisticated. In fact, the major reason why there are ten million victims of identity theft in the U.S. every year is because we make it so easy for the thieves.
According to recent research, young adults (ages 18 to 24) are most likely to leave their personal information open to a theft. Not only do they do the least to protect themselves, they also take the longest to notice discrepancies on their credit card statement or credit history. When you don’t check your credit, identity thieves can continue using the accounts they’ve opened in your name.
Take the necessary steps to make it more difficult for identity thieves to steal your personal information. So, how do you make it harder for thieves to assume your identity? By reducing the ways for thieves to gain access to this information.
– Do not use the same passwords for online banking and bill paying as you use for social networks and other sites with less sensitive information
– Do not throw away junk mail, such as credit card ads or bill statements, without shredding them
– Install virus and malware protection on your computer. Activate password protection anytime you are not using your computer. Criminals are increasingly turning to the internet as a way to steal your personal information.
– Do not give out any personal information online or over the phone unless you are completely sure that the person receiving it is trustworthy
– Never write the PIN numbers of your debit and credit cards on the cards themselves, or keep these numbers in your wallet. Do not write down passwords anywhere where others could find them.
– Use a secure password with a mix of numbers and letters. Never set your password as your Social Security number, date of birth, or the word “password.”
– Check your credit report annually at annualcreditreport.com, the free, government-legislated website. Doing so will alert you to any fraudulent accounts opened in your name.
These are simple steps that everyone should be taking to protect their identity. If you’re ready to take things to the next level, consider identity theft protection. There are many quality companies offering such services. Some identity thieves will work very hard to get your personal information, especially if you have a good credit rating or high income. Identity theft protection plans can help you out by monitoring for these thieves. However, such a plan is not a replacement for the simple steps listed above.