You might take a lot of precautions to protect your identity online, but are you giving enough thought to offline identity protection?
Sure, thieves can use phishing emails or malware to steal your personal and financial information. They can buy your passwords on the dark web and access your email and financial accounts. But they can also steal your new credit and debit cards out of the mail or even grab those pre-approved offers of credit you get sometimes. They may be able to steal your credit card info or debit card PIN while you’re completing a transaction in a store. They may even be able to steal your devices and gain access to all the information on them. Protect your identity online and off with these tips.
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Shred Your Documents Before You Throw Them Away
Do you get bank statements, credit card bills, investment statements, or other documentation in the mail? You can’t just throw this stuff away. Even tearing it up into smaller pieces may not be enough to protect you from an identity fraudster who has the patience and stomach to go through your garbage, find all those pieces, and put them back together. Always shred financial documentation before you throw it away, using a crosscut shredder.
Change Your Passwords Regularly
You should change all of your online account passwords every 60 to 90 days, or more often if you have reason to believe one may have been compromised. Use secure passwords that contain letters, special characters, and numbers. Use a different password for every last one of your online accounts.
Use Online Identity Theft Protection Software
Online identity theft protection software can make it so much easier to monitor your credit report for signs of identity theft. ID protection solutions can monitor the dark web and let you know if any of your data has been compromised so you can change passwords and do what you need to do to protect yourself immediately. You’ll also get some insurance to help you recoup the financial costs of identity theft as well as recovery assistance.
Keep an Eye on Your Credit Reports
These days, lots of credit card issuers and banks offer free credit monitoring to their customers, which makes it easier and cheaper than ever to monitor your credit. If you’re using a credit monitoring tool, you’ll see new inquiries and new accounts as soon as they come up, so if you see something alarming, you’ll be in a better position to stop the identity thieves immediately before they can rack up thousands of dollars in debt in your name.
Be on Guard Against Scams
Caller ID spoofing allows scammers to make it look like they’re calling from basically any number. They can make it seem like they’re your bank, your credit card company, another company, or a government agency. Email phishing scams are getting more sophisticated these days, too. If you get a concerning call, hang up, look up the number for the institution or agency online, and call them back yourself to ask about the call. If you get a phishing email and you want to double check it, close the email, and either call the institution or navigate to their website in a browser.
Take Your Mail Inside as Soon as It Arrives
Do you ever get offers for pre-approved credit cards in the mail? You may want to opt out – thieves steal them and fill them out, obtaining credit in your name. They can also steal financial and personal information from your mailbox or grab your new payment cards before you can get to them. Always bring your mail in immediately, and use Informed Delivery so you know what you have coming and will know immediately if something is missing.
Lock Your Mobile Screen
If you don’t have password protection on your mobile devices, anyone who picks them up will have access to all the information they contain, including your financial information. Imagine if your phone gets stolen and the thief gets into your email, bank accounts, and social media accounts as a result. If you have password protection on your phone, that can keep a thief out long enough to wipe your phone remotely.
Protect Your Financial Info When Shopping
Thieves may be able to suss out your debit card PIN or even use an RFID skimmer to steal information from your credit card when you’re making a purchase or just walking around. Use an RFID-blocking wallet, and shield your PIN or credit card number when making purchases. You may want to consider using a digital wallet, which you can use online or off, and which may be more secure than using your credit cards if you’re worried about RFID skimming.
Your identity is the most valuable thing you possess – and thieves are always trying to find a way to steal it from you. Don’t become a victim. Play it safe with your personal information, whether you’re online or not.