8 Ways To Avoid Identity Theft
Identity theft and credit card fraud are problems which continue to rise – largely because we now share so much data. With so many different ways in which our data can be compromised, it’s important to attempt to safeguard sensitive information as best you can in order to reduce the odds of becoming another victim of ID theft which is a growing crime.
There are a number of simple steps we can take in order to keep our valuable information safe, which we’ll take a look at below:
1) Choose secure passwords for all online services
Social networking, banking, shopping… The way we interact online encompasses all aspects of life, whether it’s casual chit-chat on Facebook or choosing new financial products via online banking. Choosing a secure password is arguably the first step to keeping anyone from accessing your private information. How Secure Is My Password? is a website which can provide you with information on whether your password could be easily ‘cracked’ or not.
2) Choose separate passwords
Although it might be a little inconvenient to try and remember a different password for each different online service you use, we cannot stress this enough: choose separate passwords. The reasons for this are straightforward enough – if somebody can access your social networking accounts, online banking accounts and emails, they can glean more than enough information about you (for example, your place of work, date of birth and location from Facebook, and your address and bank details from your online banking account) to steal your identity.
3) Never disclose all of your information
Despite the fact that certain websites might want to find out all about you, remember that you don’t have to disclose your information. There’s absolutely no reason for you to reveal your date of birth or address on your social networking accounts – sure, you might not get as many birthday messages every year, although it’s a small price to pay for keeping your identity safe.
4) Keep your PC Malware-free
Malware is routinely used to gather sensitive information, and has a funny way of sneaking onto your system via a back door (such as a program download or a visit to a compromised website). It’s imperative that you use a Malware scanner to regularly check your computer for malicious programs which could be gathering information from your computer. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is a free program which is purpose-designed to keep your PC safe.
5) Suspicious email? Don’t open the link
Although most of our email accounts have reasonably adequate spam filters to stop unsolicited emails arriving in our inboxes, they aren’t entirely foolproof, and sometimes we receive emails which seem suspicious. Some data thieves might pretend to be emailing from your bank, and requesting information. Remember, no reputable company would request sensitive information via email, and clicking on a link could result in your machine being infected with malware.
6) Monitor your credit report
It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your credit report, checking regularly to see if everything’s in order. If you spot any suspicious activity, such as applications for loans or financing, chances are that your identity has been compromised. Consumer Check provide an easy means of taking a comprehensive look at your own credit report which can alert you to any strange transactions taking place in your name.
7) Destroy your old bank statements
Although online identity theft is becoming increasingly common, it’s still possible for thieves to steal your data the old-fashioned way – by getting hold of your documents by any means necessary, including going through your rubbish. To avoid the possibility of this happening, remember to shred any documents containing sensitive information before disposing of them. Using a cross-cut shredder will ensure that the strips of paper cannot be realigned and taped back together.
8) Don’t be afraid to be sensitive with your personal information
Our data is often requested for the most arbitrary of reasons, and whilst we sometimes need to reveal personal information for data protection purposes, it’s worthwhile being vigilant enough to understand when it’s not absolutely necessary. For example, telesales agents might ask for your date of birth and national insurance reason without having good reason to do so. Don’t be afraid to decline revealing your personal information.