When online, there are different precautions you can take to ward yourself against the threat of identity theft. Some may seem like common sense, yet there are many people who don’t follow these simple rules, the main one being to avoid posting your birthdate, address, and other personal information on any website, trusted or not. This is especially important on unsafe or untrusted websites and now social media websites too, for example some being Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.
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The reason why this is very imperitive, is because they’re often used to verify your identity. A place where you may have seen this is when you forget your password and need to answer a question to send a email to you to reset your password. But this information, once in the hands of an imposter, can pose as you can benefit off of your identity. Another way to warn you if something seems suspicious or fishy, you can sign up for alerts on your phone or computer, that will alert you of suspicious happenings as soon as it’s detected. Yet another way to prevent risks of identity theft is to place a security freeze on credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the 3 major credit bureaus. This prevents people, companies, anyone at all from looking at your credit report save for the few companies that already have a financial relationship with you and certain government agencies. Also, if you access the Internet on a daily basis, a firewall might be a good investment.
The regularly updated anti-malware, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software that comes with a firewall prevent against any hackers trying to get your identity. Along with strong passwords, you should be pretty safe. Also make sure your iPad, phone, and flash/hard drives containing personal data have security applications and proper protection in case they’re lost or stolen. Checking your credit report from time to time can also help you catch fraudulent information. “Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, everyone is allowed one free copy of their credit report every year from each of the big three credit bureaus.” This means that if you schedule your requests so that you can get your file from one of them every four months, you can effectively bring down your risk of identity theft. For even more protection, get online access to all of your accounts and check them regularly, even daily. It’s also important to keep tabs on your phone bills to find any weird and strange charges for services and purchases.
Now that cellphones are gaining popularity as mobile payment devices, fraudulent charges can begin there as well. Another important thing to remember is that filing a fraud alert is relevant anytime that you believe your identity has been endangered. This could be when your wallet or device gets lost or stolen, or if your home or car or any property has been robbed. It would be better if done after smaller warnings, an example being finding fraudulent charges on your credit-card statement. And the best thing is that fraud alerts are free; security freezes costing around $5 to $10 per person. Prices range from free to $20 depending upon state law. But if you’re a victim of identity fraud, freezes are usually free, making protecting yourself cost-free and efficient.
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