Identity theft is an ever-growing present concern in our daily lives. With reports of institutions, corporations, and websites being hacked every week, it’s no wonder that reports of identity fraud went up from 8.5 million in 2010 according to the US Department of Justice to 10.5 million in 2012. What can the average consumer do to protect themselves from identity theft? Read on for our advice.
Everyone is entitled to one free annual credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax – from AnnualCreditReport.com. When you receive your credit reports, you can review them for mistakes and errors that are affecting your credit scores, which you can then challenge.
If you are finding it difficult to know how to challenge the errors, you can turn to a paid service such as Lexington Law, which will employ attorneys and paralegals to assist you.
If you become a victim of identity theft, the damage is difficult and time-consuming to repair. You have to call your banks, your credit card companies, and you may have to dispute bill collectors trying to collect on fraudulent claims.
Companies such as LifeLock can provide you with time-saving assistance if you do become a victim of identity theft or fraud.
Enable two-factor authentication on as many apps and websites as possible, in addition to using strong and different passwords for each site. Many sites such as Google offer two-factor authentication, which provides an additional security layer to passwords, by using your phone to confirm authorization of the website.
To enable two-factor authentication, go to your account settings, and set it up by adding a phone number where you can receive text messages. The next time you log into the account, you will be prompted to enter a code that has been sent to your phone. You can enable your account to remember your computer or device, so you don’t have to enter the code every time you log in.
Whether it is old bills, taxes, or expired credit cards, shred them all so that identity thieves will not be able to piece together your social security number, your bank account numbers and other personal information.
Bills, credit card statements, bank statements, etc, for any irregularities or errors. Dispute any fishy charges you see; you can initiate chargebacks on things you know you did not purchase.
Provide it only for credit, taxes, or for employment verification. Do not provide your Social Security number or any other sensitive personal information over the phone, to anyone you do not know or trust.
If you get an email from “Facebook”, double-check to make sure the email is actually from Facebook.com, and not another domain. If you are unsure about the origins of the email, send it to your spam folder. Do not open any links or attachments from people do you do not know.