10 Best Practices to Prevent Identity Theft
There is a one in eight chance of being a victim of identity theft each year. In 2015 alone, 13.1 million people were victims — $15 billion in funds were stolen1. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood that you will become a victim. Here are some best practices that will help reduce your risk:
1. Use a variety of usernames and strong passwords.
The most popular passwords still include: “password,” “123456,” and “qwerty” . . . this is not good. A strong password will be at least eight characters and include a capital letter, a number, and a symbol.
It is also best to use different passwords for each site, so using a password manager can make a lot of sense. We would recommend software that can be located on your hard drive and is not cloud-based (Cloud-based LastPass was hacked in 2015).
2. Use two-step verification whenever possible.
Many people are unaware that services like Gmail offer this as an option.
3. Lock your smartphone.
Also change your settings so text messages don’t show previews on the lock screen. If your phone is stolen and the thief tries to reset a password and has it sent to your phone, they would be able to see it without your phone’s password if your phone shows text previews.
4. Use a VPN when accessing public Wi-Fi.
Undo Identity Theft, Inc. recommends PrivateInternetAccess.com.
5. Monitor your accounts regularly to detect fraud.
Fraud on your credit cards often will start as small transactions.
6. Protect your Social Security number.
Be aware of who is asking for your number and whether it is reasonable that they would need it.
7. Stop solicitations at OptOutPrescreen.com.
You can electronically stop solicitations for five years or permanently if done by mail.
8. Get free credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Look for suspicious activity or accounts you don’t recognize.
9. Keep your antivirus software up-to-date.
Protect your computer from viruses and malware that attempt to steal your personal data.
10. Shred documents before recycling.
You can bring the documents to our office or shred at home (ideally with a micro/cross-cut shredder).
1Javelin Strategy & Research, 2016 Identity Fraud Study 2/2/16