5 Steps to Identity Theft Protection
Protecting your private data without a risk of breakdown is almost impossible these days. However there are some ways to shield you from becoming an identity theft victim. Identity theft refers to a crime in which somebody obtains crucial pieces of information or PII (Personal identifying information) such as a driver’s license numbers and social security numbers and uses them for his or her own personal gain. This can start with stolen or lost mail, computer virus, paper documents thrown by you or data breach. So how can I protect myself from becoming an identity theft victim? As a consumer, preventing or stopping identity theft can be a daunting task. Nevertheless there are some steps that you can take which can protect you. These simple but essential tips can help protect you and your name.
Choose good PINs and passwords
Choose numbers and words that nobody can guess even if they know other parts of your personal data. Or you can use numbers and words that are a little bit familiar to you but make sure you disguise them in a hard to guess code such as the Vigenere kable or unbreakable numbers and words. Other positive habits you should get into include:
- Do not use a similar password or PIN for all your accounts. Try to vary them from one account to another.
- Avoid easily guessed Passwords like common numerical sequences, birth dates, digits of your SSN, your phone number etc.
- Good passwords should have both small and capital letters, characters and numbers and should be at least eight to ten characters long.
- Never store sensitive data or passwords on your PC. Most computers are hackable. If you must store the information digitally ,use an external hard drive or a CD that is attached to the PC only for offline backups.
Protect your computer
Most identity thieves these days use very sophisticated software such as keyloggers and spyware to obtain important information such as login details and passwords without the owner’s permission. Just because you cannot see anything amiss with your computer does not mean it is safe. Unlike adware and viruses, most keylogger and spyware programs are architected for stealth which allows them to gather sensitive data and many passwords. A regularly updated and a strong anti-virus program, firewall and anti-spyware programs will also enhance protection of your sensitive data. If you are not sure which one is the best for your PC or tablet contact your local device or computer retailer for advice.
Beware of phishing scams
Phishing normally involves seemingly harmless messages or emails being sent to you, requiring you to verify particular things such as account numbers, passwords or social security/credit details. Any email or message asking you to do this should be a red flag for you. The most appropriate response for such emails is to contact your service provider and ask what is going on. If you get an email or a message claiming to be from your employer or bank asking you to update or check your data such as Passwords or PINs for any reason, never use the link provided in the email, even if it actually seems like it came from your employer or bank. If you really think the message or email is real, log in directly to the bank’s or company’s website and check your date there; if there are no alterations then you have just avoided a scammer. This type of identity theft is commonly referred to as a phishing scam and takes multiple forms. Other forms of phishing scams include requests for money to assist individuals who have lost tickets/house/money, false lottery wins etc. Check the site of your nation’s department responsible for updating regular scams (Usually consumer affairs); some even send regular emails with updates to keep consumers forewarned. Some non-governmental consumer watchdog organizations also have similar info available online on their websites.
Take care when shopping online
Make sure you look out for security symbols when using an online site for shopping. For instance if the lock icon is not in a shopping site, do not give out your credit details .Also confirm that the website is legit, never go to a website randomly and start buying. Go to the website by searching on a search engine or go to the site through a known URL first. Have a separate credit card for online purchases. This makes it easy for you to cancel in case something happens and your other card in real life can still be used. Do not store important or sensitive information on any website. Even though it may be convenient, it is also a possible huge loss if the website gets hacked.
Use services such as LifeLock
LifeLock Standard™ identity theft protection uses innovative monitoring technology and alert tools to help proactively safeguard your credit and finances.† If identity fraud does occur, an Identity Restoration Advocate will personally manage your case. LifeLock Standard membership includes: • LifeLock Identity Alert® System† o The patented LifeLock Identity Alert® system monitors over a trillion data points for fraudulent attempts to use your Social Security number, name, address or date of birth in applications for new credit cards, wireless services, retail credit, mortgages, auto and payday loans. The system lets you know about threats to your identity by text, phone or email.** • Lost Wallet Protection‡‡ o A lost or stolen wallet can leave you stranded. If your wallet goes missing, just call and LifeLock will help cancel or replace the contents, helping you stop fraudulent charges so you can get back on your way. Coverage includes credit and debit cards, driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, insurance cards, checkbooks and travelers checks. • Address Change Verification o Mail containing financial information is vulnerable to identity thieves who may attempt to divert it. LifeLock monitors change of address requests and notifies you if we detect a change of address request linked to your identity. • Black Market Website Surveillance o Identity thieves illegally buy, sell and trade personal information on black market Internet sites around the world. LifeLock patrols over 10,000 criminal websites and notifies you if your private data is found. • Reduced Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers o Pre-approved credit card offers can provide important information to identity thieves. LifeLock will request your name be removed from many pre-approved credit card mailing lists. • Live Member Support o U.S. based Identity Protection Agents are available to help with questions or claims. You can log in to your online account at LifeLock.com. • Certified Resolution Support o If you become a victim of identity fraud, an Identity Restoration Advocate will personally handle your case and help restore your identity. • $1 Million Total Service Guarantee o As a LifeLock member, if you become a victim of identity theft, LifeLock will spend up to $1 million to hire experts, lawyers, investigators, consultants and other necessary professionals to help your recovery.‡ LifeLock is Currently Offering: 30 Days Free Trial** Plus 10% off LifeLock Memberships
†Network does not cover all transactions. ‡‡Excludes pictures, cash, and cash equivalents. ** Fastest alerts require member’s current email address. ‡The benefits under the Service Guarantee are provided under a Master Insurance Policy underwritten by State National Insurance Company. Under the Service Guarantee LifeLock will spend up to $1 million to hire experts to help
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* * At the end of the 30-day trial period your card will be billed automatically ($8.99 monthly/$98.90 annually for LifeLock Standard identity theft protection, $17.99 monthly/$197.90 annually for LifeLock Advantage, or $26.99 monthly/$296.90 annually for LifeLock Ultimate Plus, plus applicable sales tax) unless you cancel within the 30-day trial period. You can cancel any time without penalty by calling 1-800-651-2771.