I wrote last week about the Equifax Hack and how to react to that threat. Now I want to talk about how to be proactive when it comes to protecting your Identity.
1. Low Tech Precautions:
- Never give your Social Security number or other information to strangers who call, text, or send e-mail messages to you.
- Never leave your wallet or purse unattended. Don't carry your Social Security card, rarely used credit cards, or written PINs or passwords.
- Store financial account statements, medical records, and tax filings in a secure place at home, and shred those documents when you no longer need them.
- Don't post your date of birth, mother's maiden name, first pet's name, or other personal information on websites like Facebook, Flickr, Friendster, LinkedIn, MySpace, or Twitter. They're often used to verify your identity & could allow an imposter electronic access to your accounts.
- If your bank or credit-card company offers free online or mobile alerts that will warn you of suspicious account activity as soon as it's detected, sign up for them.
2. Place security freezes and fraud alerts
3. Secure your devices
Make sure your smartphone, iPad, other mobile devices, and portable flash drives containing personal data have security applications and encryption in case they're lost or stolen.
4. Keep an ID-theft file
Keep photocopies of the contents of your wallet—the front and back of your driver's license, credit cards, club membership cards, etc.—in case it's lost or stolen.
5. Review your credit reports
Check your credit report periodically for items that you don't recognize—such as accounts, judgments, liens, collections, bankruptcies, and other possible footprints of identity theft—and dispute all erroneous and fraudulent information. You're entitled to one free copy of your credit report every year from each of the big three credit bureaus. Stagger your requests so that you'll get your file from one of them every four months. You should order your free reports at www.annualcreditreport.com.
6. Stop unsolicited credit-card offers
One way crooks steal your name is by swiping preapproved credit offers from your mailbox to open an account. You can stop credit bureaus from selling your name to lenders by going to www.optoutprescreen.com or calling 888-567-8688. Opting out should stop most offers, and it's free. Bonus: Eco-friendly!
7. Monitor accounts often
It's no longer enough to wait for your monthly credit-card or checking account statement to look for suspicious activity. For added protection, sign up for online access to your accounts and check them regularly, even daily.
8. Respond rapidly
If you suspect you've been a victim of identity theft, act quickly. Immediately contact your creditors and financial institutions to report unauthorized charges or debits, and close any compromised accounts.