It's easier than ever to become a victim of identity theft. However it's also easy to protect yourself. The following six tips will help keep you and your identity safe:
- Be smart about passwords. It's important to create a strong password - not something that can be easily guessed such as your mother's maiden name, a family member's birth date or a cherished pet's name. Consider a passphrase instead. A passphrase is multiple words strung together and can be stronger than a one-word password, as long as you avoid common phrases or lyrics and instead string together three or four completely random, unrelated words.
- Don't overshare on social networks. While it's tempting to share everything about yourself on your favorite social networks, posting information such as your birthdate, social security number, place of birth and address is enough to give someone a great start on stealing your identity. Keep your personal information personal.
- Do a yearly check on your credit report. Take advantage of yearly free credit reports and make sure there isn't any suspicious activity or errors. If it seems someone has stolen your identity, you can set up a fraud alert. Even if your information is safe, it's still a good idea to fix any errors in your credit report. You can also take steps to improve your credit score, if necessary.
- Don't neglect your mobile devices. Just because you're not using a laptop or desktop computer, it doesn't mean you're automatically safe. Smart phones and other mobile devices are basically mini computers and as such, are vulnerable to security breaches and cyber-attacks. Make sure any apps you download, especially banking and financial apps, are from a reputable company. Don't forget to use a strong password to protect your mobile device and the information on it.
- Practice safe filing. Speaking of protecting information, it's critical to protect documents you store on your computer containing personal information. There are several easy ways to do this including installing a firewall, anti-virus software, and anti-malware and anti-spyware software. You should also ensure your wireless network is secure and that your operating system and internet browser are up to date.
- Be smart about scams. Phishing scammers are getting extremely good at sending emails that appear almost identical to legitimate emails. However, keep in mind that a legitimate company will never ask you for personal information without signing into a secure website first.
Here is a very nice video explaining the dangers of online threats:
These tips along with common sense will help foil identity thieves.