According to the European Commission, identity theft, which began mainly in the United States, is now a growing problem in European countries as well. Innovations and technology has been a catalyst for this crime epidemic of identity theft as many people now do the majority of their transactions and banking online, and more and more basic information such as address, phone number, and date of birth is found easily with a quick Google search.
Do Your Research
The first place to start in learning how to protect your identity is to do research on how widespread it is and to be aware of the new trends of identity theft and new threats. Although changes are regularly made in order to make credit cards more secure, there are always new ways that thieves create to steal other’s identities.
Check Your Credit Report
It may not be the most enjoyable information to check, however checking your credit report as often as possible is an excellent way to stay abreast of any changes to your score, caused by those who have accessed your information. You’ll be able to see how many credit cards you have open and your account information through this score. When it comes to finding out if your identity has been stolen, the sooner you know, the better off you’ll be. Report anything that looks out of place and if you do find a credit card that you did not open up, contact their fraud protection site immediately. If you look at your credit score and are suspicious of fraud, request a credit freeze.
Access Accounts From Your Devices and a Secure Network Only
It may be tempting to sign into your work computer to pay a bill online or check your account balances, but you need to refrain from it. Although you’re likely to be the only one that regularly sits at your work computer, it’s best to refrain from signing in to your accounts from anywhere other than your own personal computer or mobile phone.
Along these same lines, only sign into these accounts on the wifi you control or by using your data. Do not use an open network wifi in order to sign into your accounts because this public wifi is generally unencrypted, which would let anyone who wants to, see what you’re looking at on your screen.
You also must be careful of wifi hotspots that seem to be free for the public, but were actually created by scammers as an attempt to access your information. Most of these malicious hotspots are named something vague like “Public Wifi,” but don’t sign into them if you’re not certain they are safe. As a good rule of thumb, try to only access your account information at home or on your mobile phone by using data.
Be Cautious on Social Media
In this day and age everyone is on at least one social media site. Refrain from sharing your personal information like address and phone number and, if you can avoid it, don’t share your birthday. Although you won’t likely receive as many well-wishes on your birthday, you’ll be taking an extra step in safeguarding your personal information. Additionally, do not accept connections that you do not know on sites like Facebook and increase the privacy settings to all of your sites.
Keep Your Phone Secure
Most of us have some sort of passcode in order to sign into our phones. Make sure your code is not easy to guess and lock your phone whenever it’s not in use. Keep your bluetooth off if you’re not using it and always be careful with downloading apps to ensure they aren’t malware.
Create Unique Passwords Often
According to an article written for the Huffington Post, the most popular password of 2016 was 123456. If any of your passwords made it to this list of top 25 most popular passwords, change them immediately! It can be difficult to remember passwords, which is why so many people opt for simplistic ones, but these can be easily guessed at by an identity thief and there are even machines available that can figure out passwords that are this easy. The website howsecureismypassword.net gives an estimate on how long it would take a computer to guess your password, and the password 123456 would be guessed instantly. Get a rating on how strong your password is by using this site and see how long it would take for a computer to guess it. A great idea is to use a short phrase and combine letters, numbers, and special characters.
Destroy Paper Documents
If you get actual paper bills for your credit cards and other accounts, be sure to shred these documents. It might seem like a stretch for someone to go through your garbage, it’s quite common. Shred any documents with credit card information, your personal information, or anything that you would not be comfortable with a stranger seeing.
Purchase an Identity Theft Detection Plan
If you are worried that your identity might become compromised in the future, there are detection plans offered by Experian, Lifelock, and more. These plans will monitor your accounts and information and inform you immediately if anything has been compromised. These plans can be expensive and it’s a good idea to shop around.