This is a sponsored post on behalf of LifeLock. Though I was compensated for my time, all opinions are my own.
We talked before about the damages of identity theft – and the long process that it takes to fix it after someone has stolen your identity. Many people think that credit monitoring is the only step you need to take. Though it’s important, credit monitoring alone won’t protect you from the dangers of identity theft. Studies show that identity theft has increased over recent years – even those that use a credit monitoring system. Identity theft typically occurs when identity thieves access personal information, like your name or Social Security number (SSN), to commit fraud or other crimes. Some common ways identity thieves access your information include:
• A stolen wallet or credit cards
• Documents or receipts in the trash
• Phone or email scams
• Hacking unsecured computers and wireless networks
Once identity thieves gain access to personal information, they can purchase items on your credit card, open new credit cards, or even file a fraudulent tax return in your name.
Consider these tips to help keep your personal information safe and secure and protect you from identity theft:
1. Create Strong Passwords and Update them Frequently. Remember to create a strong password, by avoiding common or easy-to-guess passwords. Common passwords often include a birth date, a pet’s name, a mother’s maiden name, or a person’s school or work. A safer password usually has some capital letters and at least one numeric or other non-alphabetical character. Make sure to update your passwords frequently, try every 3 months, to keep your passwords safe.
2. Share Sparingly. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter encourage users – to share a significant amount of personal info that can be used to ‘authenticate’ a person’s identity. Make sure not to share personal information online such as your home address, phone number, social, birthdates, or birth place.
3. Keep Sensitive Personal and Financial Documents Safe. Most people store personal and financial information on their computer. If you do, it’s important to protect your computer by installing a firewall, using anti-virus and anti-spyware software, keeping your browser updated, and securing your wireless network. If you are disposing of financial or tax documents, make sure you shred them, and if you are keeping hard copies for your records, store them in a safe location. Never carry around your social security card – and do NOT have it listed on your drivers license, or any other cards that you carry with you on a regular basis.
4. Protect Your Cell Phone. There are great apps available to help you on a day to day basis – you can balance your checkbook, check your bank account balance, even file your taxes. Make sure the apps that you download are from a reputable company and check the ratings and comments to be aware of what the app does and what information it may access on your mobile device. You should also secure your device with a strong password and use your phone’s auto-lock feature to protect personal information.
5. Check Your Credit Report. Your are entitled to one free credit report each year, which is compiled from information from the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Take advantage of the free report in order to catch any errors. If any information has been compromised, set up a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus to put a security freeze on your files and information.
6. Don’t Fall for Phishing Scams. The email scams can come from a party claiming to be a trustworthy entity, (e.g., your bank) asking you to click on a link and confirm personal details including address, account numbers, or even your SSN. Trustworthy companies would never ask you to provide personal or sensitive information without first signing into your account behind a secure firewall. The IRS in particular will never communicate or request personal information via unsolicited email. Do not open or forward emails claiming to be from the IRS—forward them to email@example.com.
7. Invest in LifeLock Protection LifeLock’s monitoring services relentlessly protect your credit and personal information from identity theft and fraud, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Their services offer proactive identity theft protection and credit monitoring using innovative technologies that power not only LifeLock, but also the world’s most sophisticated surveillance solutions – similar to the technology employed by government intelligence agencies and blue-chip corporations.
More than just a credit and identity theft monitoring service, LifeLock dives deep to discover the schemes today’s thieves are using to steal personal information, from old-school collection techniques to sophisticated technologies. We continuously monitor vulnerable information for threats, alert you when we determine a risk, and work to help educate law enforcement to combat this growing trend. We also offer LifeLock Command Center™ service, an additional Identity Theft Protection plan.
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If you believe your identity has been stolen, it is important to put a hold on bank and credit accounts, change commonly used passwords, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Providing the FTC with an overview of what information has been compromised allows them to build a case for any wrongdoing. Unfortunately, the FTC cannot get back any money lost, but can help safeguard against further fraudulent activity and conduct an investigation into any hacked information.