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10 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Identity

credit identity theft Sep 14, 2018

Do you ever wonder why you still get those annoying calls, spam text messages, or emails? Even if you have placed yourself on the National Do Not Call List, your personal information is out there and people are gaining access to it every day. With our high reliance on technology, are we leaving ourselves open to identity fraud? Absolutely, the majority of us are!

So, how do we fix it? How do we protect ourselves from fraud and rid ourselves of calls, emails, text messages, and identity theft?

Here are 10 things you can do right now to protect your identity:

1. Use fraud alerts: If you think your identity has been compromised, or if you just want to be extra careful, you can place a fraud alert right on your credit file. This creates an extra step of verification for any creditor to go through in order to confirm your identity if a new account is being opened in your name. Generally, fraud alerts last for 3 months, but people who are already a victim of identity theft can opt for one which will last longer, even up to 7 years.


2. Place passwords all your devices and opt-in for two-step verification when available: It is so much better to endure the momentary inconvenience that is attached to unlocking your device whenever you want to use it than to become a victim of identity theft. When your device is unlocked or left unattended, it is the equivalent of an open pocketbook. If a particular company offers two-step authentication, sign up for it, too. For example, when you log into your account from your tablet, a six-digit number may be texted to your cell phone to make sure that it’s really you signing in. This added step stops thieves in their tracks. This protects your account from anyone who may have guessed or have seen you use your password.


3. Change your passwords regularly: Don’t use the same passwords on different accounts for obvious reasons and don’t stick to any password for a long period of time. Change your passwords often. If you’re forgetful, buy a password book to keep your passwords in and use clue words you won’t forget instead of writing down the true passwords and numbers themselves. For instance, instead of writing out your favorite band, just print “band.” You know who your favorite band is. That way, if anyone steals your book, they won’t be able to figure out the band unless they really know you. If you notice any strange activity in your accounts or you are convinced your password isn’t safe anymore, change it and use a complex password by incorporating upper case and lower case letters, numbers, and characters. Use acronyms. I’ll write a movie title like “Jaws” in my password book and that one movie title represents the acronym WGTNABB for “we’re going to need a bigger boat.”

4. Don’t reveal your social security number: Are you aware that your social security number is not needed by the cable company or your doctor’s office, nor do they have the right to request it? It is needed at the bank and other financial institutions, though. Medical insurance carriers have moved away from using them, but there may be an odd occasion where it’s needed. So, whenever you are being asked for it by any company, you should find out if your account can be created without it. If they answer “no,” then proceed further by talking to a supervisor. In the case of a utility provider, you may be told that without it, they can’t offer you credit and you will have to pay in cash instead. That is a case where you’ll have to decide on your own whether to provide it or not. However, be extremely leery of ever giving that number out. Also, don’t store your social security card in your wallet or purse but instead, store it in an inaccessible or secret location.


5. Monitor your credit: Most credit card companies now off you a free credit score and/or free credit monitoring from resources like Credit Sesame. Again, this service is free and you can set up your account to get instant notifications when any information changes on your credit report. Your report can change when a new account is opened, when your credit accounts update your balances, or when your score changes due to a number of factors. In any case, monitor these changes and your scores at all times with a credit service.


6. Read your mail: I know we all get piles of junk mail, but you should read your mail. You might have already checked your credit card statements for charges you can’t really explain, but you should not forget to review any paperwork that comes from other vendors and institutions. Someone may have opened an account in your name.


7. Run an anti-virus software on your computer and on your phone if you use it to go online often enough: Literally, your computer and other electronic gadgets can become infected with just a click of a button. For internet safety, make sure you are always running a software that guarantees your identity’s safety. In case you need a free one, try Avast or AVG, but paid ones rate better.


8. Don’t be an online open book: Avoid connecting with people you don’t know personally. Set your social media to private or friends only. Our social media profiles are like a window into our lives, so avoid giving out information about your whereabouts, plans, lifestyle, family members, and any of your preferences to total strangers. If you see a post asking for your first car, don’t post it. Questions like these are used to fish information out of people in a fun and disarming way. Also, don’t have Facebook on your phone. Facebook has access to your microphones and camera at all times, even when it’s not running and even when your phone looks like it’s off. That’s a fact and not a conspiracy.


9. Destroy old devices: Once your devices are outdated or you don’t need them anymore, make sure they are completely wiped clean of any personal information and then destroyed. If you want to donate them or sell them, make sure you get the device encrypted before you continue with the factory reset. It’s even best if you consult an expert to be sure you are totally safe to give the device away.


10. Shred documents that contain sensitive information: Shred every item that has your name, address or any other information that identifies you or your other family members. Make sure you leave no trace of your identity in the trash, especially pre-approved credit card offers. Those are gold to thieves. Shred any and all personal information.


Note: You don’t have to be a victim; you can actually take control of your identity. Make sure you put all the protection on your laptops, PCs, tablets, and your mobile phones to be sure you are not giving away necessary or vital information that the criminals out there can use to defraud you. Let’s be safe out there!




Michelle R Russell

© The Prosperity Process, LLC  

for BNB-Boss


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