There are tried and true ways to protect yourself from identity theft-ways that you may not have even considered. Check them out (no specific order):
- Evaluate your passwords. Does every online account have a different password or are you using the same one for multiple accounts? Fix this problem immediately.
- However, make the new passwords at least eight characters ideally, and include symbols, not just letters and numbers. Avoid using actual words or names, or keyboard sequences. Password-cracking software will easily find shorter passwords that contain words, names and keyboard sequences.
- Never post anything personal on social media. Yes, this includes your pet's name, name of your kids' school or teacher, where you're going on vacation, the town your parents live in, etc. I don't, why do you?
- Would you open your door to strangers knocking on it all day long? Of course not. So why would you "answer" e-mails from strangers? Ignore e-mails whose senders you don't know. If the sender appears to be from a company you do business with, but you never gave them your e-mail, delete it. If they DO have your e-mail but there's no reason they should be sending you a message, just ignore it.
- If that all sounds too confusing, then follow this simple rule: Never click links in e-mails or open attachments you're not expecting.
- If you're not using Bluetooth on your phone, turn it off.
- Set your phone up with a password. If it's lost or stolen, you'll have no worries.
- Shred all your credit card offers, medical records, billing information and other personal information before tossing.
- Memorize your Social Security number. Never give it out unless it's absolutely mandatory like for a job application. However, just because someone says they can't process your request without your SSN doesn't mean you must hand it over. For instance, a major retail chain may tell you they need your Social Security number to issue you a charge card for their store. It's best to just forego the charge card. The objective is to minimize how much your SSN is "out there."
- Request your free credit report every year from the three major credit reporting bureaus. Refute unauthorized accounts immediately.
- Inspect your credit card and banking statements every month for suspicious activity.
- Use a locking mailbox or have your mail delivered to the post office and pick up.
- Before taking any trips have the post office put a stop on your mail delivery.
- Consider getting a credit freeze. This is a no brainer to protect you from new account fraud.
- Invest in identity theft protection. There is no cure for identity theft. But with a protection plan in place, the restoration component will fix most of what goes wrong.
Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.
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