Every two seconds an American becomes a victim of identity theft. If the thought of having to clean up your credit report because someone stole your identity frightens you, here are some tips to stack the odds in your favor.
1. A winning night can turn into a nightmare really fast if your wallet is lost or stolen. Especially if personal information like your social security card is in there. Do not carry your social security card and make copies of all your cards. That way, if they’re stolen you can report it fast, and accurately.
2. You can bet that if you use easy to guess passwords and PINS—like your house number, or birth date—some hacker will figure it out. Use a mix of symbols and numbers, and upper and lower case letters.
3. Use your instinct: If an overly generic e-mail address doesn’t look legit, don’t reply, and don’t click on any links. Go to your account log-ins manually using a bookmark, or type the URL.
4. Know that your credit union will never call or e-mail asking for your social security number, or birth date. If a business or individual asks for personal information, passwords, or credit card numbers–DO NOT give them. Instead, call any financial institution requesting information directly at a number you know is legitimate
5. Make sure all your electronic devices are as secure as possible by up-dating your operating systems, software and browsers; being up-to-date will minimize chances of being hacked. Also, password-protect all of your devices, so that if stolen, logging in will be more difficult.
6. Shred. Yes, some of the easiest targets for identity thieves are home trash bins. Shred invoices, financial statements, or any other personal type documents. Don’t just toss them, shred them.
7. Check your online banking accounts and credit reports regularly. There are three credit-reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian)- a trifecta for analyzing your activity. Check a different bureau every four months. If you see anything suspicious, report it.
Follow these steps, and your chance of being a victim of identity theft will drop dramatically.