The first step to protecting yourself from identity theft is to know what identity theft actually is. Unfortunately, a lot of us do not even know that identity theft exists.
As a matter of fact, unauthorized access to your personal details like name, email address, password, social security number, phone number and the like is nothing less than gold for cyber thieves. They can use these sensitive details to hack your financial accounts, credit health, medical records, and could even snatch job prospects from you.
What is Identify Theft, Anyway?
When a cyber-thief steals your personal information like social security number, name, email address and so on with a sole motive to commit fraud, it is nothing but identity theft.
The stolen information could be used to issue credit cards in your name, play with your tax refunds and even with your medical records.
A few of the many things that identity thieves can do after stealing your identity include:
- Withdrawal of funds from your bank account
- Unauthorized usage of health insurance to obtain medical care
- Applying for loans and credit cards in your name
- Stealing your tax refund by using your social security number
Identity theft has become so widespread in recent years that it has been declared as a federal crime by the US government. If found guilty, the cyber thieves cam be prisoned for up to 2 years in case of general identity theft and up to 5 years for terrorism-based theft crimes.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft?
As is evident, identity theft can prove to be disastrous. This is perhaps why it is necessary to stay alert and take certain steps in the right direction. Here is what you can do to protect yourself from identity theft:
- Use a VPN
In this digital age, VPNs are no less than a boon for us! For starters, VPN stands for virtual private network. It works by establishing a private network virtually such that all your web traffic is transferred through a secure tunnel. Your traffic is encrypted using the strongest protocol such that hackers, stealers, and spies cannot intrude your personal space and access your web history.
This way, a VPN keeps your identity protected and protects you from any identity thefts. However, it is highly recommended to go through Private Internet Access (PIA) review, and reviews of other VPNs while choosing the best VPN for you.
- Using passwords is mandatory
This is a no-brainer. Repeat with us – using passwords is MANDATORY.
Even after knowing how important passwords are, a lot of Americans still don’t use them. If a study from Experian is to be believed, 50% of Americans don’t protect their digital devices using passwords. What’s more, 30% of them believe that setting up a password is a hassle, while 25% of them believe that it is not necessary.
We cannot stress enough as to how important it is to get rid of this mindset. Not using a password is like keeping your home wide open.
Thus, no matter what, make sure that you use strong passwords on all your devices and accounts.
- Do not use the same password
Just using a password is not enough. Thieves are smart. They know that a lot of us use the same password for all of our electronic devices and financial accounts. Do not make their work easier. If they crack one of your passwords, obtaining access to the rest of the applications is like a walk in the park if every password is the same.
Thus, do not use the same password and further avoid using easy-to-guess passwords, like the ones with your name, phone number or birthday in them.
- Keep a close eye on your credit reports
Checking your credit report is an easy way to assess if your online identity is compromised. Thus, keep checking your reports for any suspicious activity. There are a lot of services like Experian and others which provide free credit reports from the credit bureau.
- Avoid carrying sensitive documents with you
With sensitive documents, we mean, avoid carrying more than one credit cards with you in your wallet. Thus, even if you lost your wallet, your other credit cards will stay safe, and the damage will be minimum. Also, avoid carrying a social security card with you. If this is lost, you could end up providing identity thieves with easy access to all your linked financial accounts.
- Do not share your personal information
You could receive a lot of calls from fraudsters who pose themselves as a bank or credit card employee and ask for your personal entails. Do not entertain such calls.
Keep in mind that no legitimate organization will ever ask your personal information on calls. If you suspect a fraud call, disconnect immediately and contact the concerned organization.
That said, protecting our identity is in our hands. All we need to do is stay vigilant, and attentive. Further, make use of the best tools like a password manager, a VPN, and the likes to maintain a pace with the changing world.