Free help, tips and advice on avoiding and dealing with Identity Theft

With identity theft affecting millions of people, it is important you take precautions.

Unfortunately, completely eliminating the risk of identity theft is impossible. But you can reduce the chance of becoming a victim of such a crime.

Here are 10 things you can do today.

1. Block Access to Your Credit File

Freezing your credit file prohibits access to your personal information. When a freeze is in place, no one can view data from your credit report without your permission. This action prevents any lender from accessing your credit file and opening an account in your name.

You can freeze your credit file with any of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion). They will give you a PIN or password that can be used for temporary unblocks.

2. Collect Your Mail Promptly or Use a Lockbox

One of the easiest ways criminals commit identity theft is to steal mail. They look for important financial statements, as well as your utility and insurance bills. To help protect against identity theft, having your mail held when you’re out of town and using a secure mailbox can help.

The U.S.P.S. offers Informed Delivery, which gives you advance notice of all incoming mail, allowing you to spot anything missing or tampered with.

3. Shred to Properly Dispose of Documents

While there are few dumpster divers left, it is still crucial to shred documents containing personal information. Identifying information like financial statements and copies of tax forms can help criminals.

As a rule of thumb, any correspondence that requires a signature should be shredded. This includes bank statements, credit card bills, pre-approved credit card applications, brokerage account confirmations, or annual reports.

4. Create Complex Passwords and Use Two-Factor Authentication

When creating a password, make sure it’s long and complex. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters to create a strong password that is at least 16 characters long. Never reuse passwords, and consider using an authenticator app to reduce your risk.

Two-factor authentication increases your security by requiring a combination of two different factors. These factors can be something you know, like a password or PIN and something you have. Some companies use a physical token or even your cellphone as the second factor.

Additionally, protect your privacy by using passwords or biometrics to lock your mobile devices.

5. Install Antivirus Software and Update Frequently

Antivirus scans for computer viruses, spyware, and other unwanted malware. This can prevent cybercriminals from taking over your computer or mobile device. Spyware is usually hidden in e-mails or illegal downloads.

The latest security software is a must if you want to keep your information secure. Updates for Windows and Mac OS can help prevent viruses from being installed. A simple click of a button is all that’s required to ensure you have the latest version of these programs.

6. Learn to Recognize Spam and Phishing Scams

Criminals are getting better at impersonating organizations you know and trust. This is why phishing scams are becoming harder to identify.

Scammers can call from phone numbers that appear to be from a business or government agency. You also can receive emails from scammers trying to steal your information.

Never open an attachment or link you receive from an unknown source. There’s often malware inside that can damage your computer. Instead of clicking on the provided link, go to the website yourself through a search engine. This ensures you land on a legitimate website.

7. Avoid Sharing Personal Information on Social Media

It may be tempting to share every detail of your life, but try to be smart about it. Before you post, make sure you are allowing only your friends or family members to see the information. Limit the risk of identity theft by showing your posts only to people you know.

If you connect with strangers, they’ll have access to this information, which they could use to impersonate you and commit fraud. Avoid showing your birthday, hometown, employer, high school, or maiden name on your profile.

Even if you’re only connected to people you know and trust on social media, you’re not completely safe. If their accounts get hacked, criminals can view your profile too.

8. Check Credit Files and Monitor Reports Periodically

Request your credit reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian at least once a year. This is a free action that will not affect your credit score.

A good tactic is to request each report at different times throughout the year. This way, you are monitoring credit activity regularly.

9. Monitor Financial Statements from Your Bank

Review financial records every month. Know who you owe, what the payment due date is, and whether you have received bills for services you did not request.

The IRS is urging all taxpayers to watch out for scammers trying to steal their tax refund. There have been reports of criminals impersonating the IRS with threats of arrest.

10. Use an Identity Theft Protection Service

The best way to protect yourself against identity theft is to enlist the help of an identity protection company.

When it comes to your protection from identity theft, monitoring is key. Identity theft monitoring companies are on top of their game with immediate action in the event of unauthorized access.

These services leverage cutting-edge technology and proactive behavioral analysis to protect you from unknown threats and known risks before they can do damage. They can alert you about privacy issues and potential ID theft, so you’re always in control.

I put a tremendous amount of time and effort into researching the best identity theft protection solution on the market today. And, after extensive research, I found Identity Guard to offer the best value.

Identity Guard provides all-inclusive identity protection for you and your family. Their suite of identity theft protection services works to keep you safe from fraud, data breaches, and other issues that can damage your financial reputation.

You can read the full review here or have a look at other identity theft protection services.

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