Identity Theft: 5 Easy Ways to Protect Your Identity From Being Stolen
Every two seconds, someone falls victim to identity fraud in the United States - costing US consumers a whopping $16 billion in 2014, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.
Could you be next?
Protect your financial standing - and your reputation - by taking the five simple (but critical!) steps against identity theft below. You'll be glad you did!
1. Protect your social security number
Your social security number serves as your proof of identity. If stolen, it gives criminals access to your existing financial accounts and the ability to set up more.
Protect it by memorizing your number for use, rather than taking your social security card on the go. And only share as needed with official sources you can verify - not over the phone or by email.
2. Safely store or shred critical documents
Your social security card isn't the only document that can put your identity at risk. Sensitive information is regularly mailed to your home, such as in bank statements and credit card solicitations.
To protect from theft, collect your mail promptly - and have the post office put it on hold when you can't. Store documents that need to be retained securely under lock and key, and shred the rest before discarding.
3. Secure yourself online
Identity thieves can also easily obtain personal information through the internet. So be cautious what you share online, such as your birth date or maiden name - which can be used to answer account security questions.
Protect yourself further by setting social media privacy settings to high, using complex account passwords and disabling cookies that track your computer. Also ensure your computer's anti-virus and anti-spyware software is up to date.
4. Monitor banking and credit reports closely
Online banking makes it easy to regularly monitor your account transactions for unauthorized purchases. While periodically checking your credit report can alert you to damages to your financial standing due to fraud.
Save your receipts for comparison with banking statements. And choose a credit reporting service that enables you to review your standing more frequently than the standard once per year.
5. Invest in identity theft insurance
Once you've fallen victim to identity theft, it's typically costly and time-consuming to resolve. But identity theft insurance can provide a safety net to minimize theft-related damages.
Just like you'd invest to protect your home or car, choose insurance that will cover you with financial assistance as well as with fraud resolution support services.