Identity theft occurs on a regular basis to more than ten million people per year, according to Fox Business and that number will only grow as thieves become more adept at stealing information and more consumers use credit and debit cards. Previously, headlines were made when it was discovered that 1.7 billion identities were stolen by thieves who lived nearby each other from a small, isolated town in Russia. In other words, identity theft is a problem that isn’t going away any time soon. Below are five great ways to protect yourself from these digital thieves, so you don’t have to go through the financial suffering or stress of having your identity stolen.
Selectively Use Your Credit Card
One of the most common ways for an identity thief to steal your identity is with a device called a skimmer that copies all of your credit card information onto a fake credit card of their own. Once this occurs, they are off and running, making purchases until you or the credit card company shuts the card down for suspicious activity. Usually, they aren’t caught when this initially occurs. So only use your credit card for big purchases at retailers that have credit card machines that can be closely monitored. Also, monitor your account on an ongoing basis for any potentially unauthorized activity.
Sign Up for an Identity Theft Protection Service
There is a growing industry of services out there who protect your identity just about everywhere you make purchases twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. For example, IdentityForce is a service that will watch your identity at all times, send you reports from credit bureaus, and verify if your identity is stolen. They also have a nationwide theft insurance policy of up to one million dollars.
Be Careful Where You Buy Online
Trusted online sites like Amazon.com or major retailers are typically secure, but random online sites can lead to identity theft very quickly, as you could literally be entering all your personal and purchasing information in for an identity thief. If you don’t see any certifications on a website about buying online, or have a bad feeling about entering in your personal info, then don’t do it.
Shred All Personal Information
Many identity thieves will go through trash and recycling bins to find personal information about people. So purchase a cross-cut shredder and shred everything about yourself that you are throwing away, to keep this from ever happening.
Don’t Use Unfamiliar Wi-Fi for Purchases
As free Wi-Fi is available in more and more places these days, identity thieves have yet another way into people’s personal information. They will often set up hotspots in public spaces and when people jump on, they will hack into their information or spy on any personal or financial information they may be checking. It is an easy way for an identity thief to steal everything they need to replicate an identity and go on a spending spree. Only use password protected Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi you have set up yourself.
This blog post is the opinion of Belmont Savings Bank and is not to be taken as financial or investment advice. For personal financial advice, please consult a financial advisor.