On top of this, around 1 in 5 victims of identity theft have experienced it more than once. How to protect yourself from identity theft?
Rapidly developing technologies mean that the skills of hackers are also rapidly developing. 8 out of 10 cases of identity theft occur online. This means that our online security needs to be better than ever, and we should all be practicing safe sharing on social media.
Evidently, we should all be taking precautions to prevent our identities from being stolen. Compromised credit cards, medical insurance or social media accounts are the last thing we need to worry about.
How can I prevent identity theft in the future?
If you are not sure about how to protect yourself from identity theft, here are some tips to implement in order to keep your identity safe and decrease the likelihood of theft.
#1 Don’t open suspicious emails or respond to cold callers
Trust your gut and don’t open any attachments or links that look suspicious. If something doesn’t seem right, it usually isn’t. Emails with attachments can be used to install malware on your computer when downloaded, so if you receive an email that you believe to be fraudulent, try to block the sender and delete the message. Cold callers tend to call between 4-5pm, as this is the time at which people are most likely to accept disruption. Try your best to ignore cold callers, as they tend to trick individuals into revealing personal information.
#2 Use a secure WiFi network
Be careful on public wifi. There is no guarantee of security on these networks, so logging into your online banking account or social media accounts is not a good idea as your credentials could be stolen if hackers manage to intercept the connection. A secure wifi network in your home and a portable one for when you need internet access elsewhere protects you and your data from becoming victim to spyware.
#3 Be careful on social media
Don’t share personal information online. Whilst you might think ‘I can delete it later’, hackers are smart. Anything that you post cannot be removed. Ensure that your address, location, full name, occupation and financial details remain private and offline.
#4 Use strong passwords
Use unique passwords for every account. Some of us can be guilty of using our name with ‘123’ on the end as the password for all of our accounts, but this is not secure and can be easily guessed. Try to include numbers, capital letters and even symbols if the site allows. It is essential that all of your accounts remain secure, as if one is compromised it can be easier to hack into the others.
#5 Shred your mail
This may seem unnecessary, but mail can contain sensitive information as well as your name and address. This makes it prime material for identity thieves. Make sure that once you have read your mail, it is destroyed, shredded or stored safely where nobody can steal it.
As we have seen earlier in the mention of statistics, unfortunately many of us have already experienced identity theft. Once you have discovered the theft, it can be a lengthy and inconvenient process to prove your identity and recreate all of your accounts. However, this is essential to prevent further theft, financial crime and the compromisation of your accounts.
If you have already been a victim of identity theft and are wondering how to reclaim it and how to protect yourself from identity theft happening again, these next tips are for you.
Determine what has been stolen
Check your social media accounts, online profiles and any other accounts you have opened. Determine which accounts have been compromised and ensure that you close them. If you must open another account, ensure that you use new credentials and strong passwords to protect yourself from further theft.
Call your bank
Ensure that you have called your banks to report that your identity has been stolen. If there are any transactions that you do not recognise, report this to the fraud department and ensure that your account is frozen or closed.
Close any fraudulent accounts
Call the fraud department of every account that you can think of. Phone companies, utility providers and make sure that they are aware of your situation. You may be required to close your account or clean up your transactions. Make sure that you also check any medical care providers and health insurance companies to ensure that all activity is usual. The ultimate aim of a thief tends to be accessing your financial information, which they could use to pay for health insurance in your name.
Request your credit report
Contact a credit reporting agency (examples include Equifax, Experian or TransUnion). Review all of the transactions and highlight any that you do not recognise or that you are sure are fraudulent. You can request a fraud alert which lasts for 1 year, making it challenging for anyone to open accounts in your name. You can also lengthen the duration of this alert with an extended fraud alert, lasting 7 years.
Block damaging information from credit reports
If the thief makes purchases in your name, they may remain on your credit report, especially if they never pay for them. Make sure that these are removed to avoid potential debts or inconvenience. You can do this through the credit reporting agency.
Contact the FTC and Police
Contact the Federal Trade Commission and obtain a report. Take this to your local police department, so that they file a report of their own. Then ask for a copy of the police report so that you can contact any businesses that the thief may have made purchases from in your name.
Obtain transactional documents
Reach out to companies and businesses where the thief has used your information. You can ask them to stop reporting this particular information to credit bureaus and provide them with the correct information.
Contact debt collectors and other lenders if you have received any notices
Even if you have not received any notices, it is a good idea to contact debt collectors and ask for any information about debt that the thief may have incurred in your name. Take the reports from credit reporting agencies and the police to authenticate your claim.
To sum up,
Whether you are looking for ways to protect yourself from identity theft in the future or wish to reclaim it after an incident, we hope that this post has helped you in some way.
Stay safe online, use your instincts, and put your privacy and security above all else. Nobody wants their privacy to be invaded.
If you want to join a secure, ad-free social network, sign up and support Fourview. Soon on Kickstarter.